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Investigating the effects of organisation on learning

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Investigating the effects of organisation on learning Clive Newstead Abstract Background: Previous research suggests that the organisation of information is integral to its storage in and recall from memory. Aim: Differences with regard to the use of categorisation of information have been observed between cultures and age groups, so the aim is to find out the degree to which categorisation affects the learning of information in 16-18 year olds. Method: 20 participants aged 16-18 had 60 seconds to learn as many words as they could from a grid containing 24 words. The grid contained 6 words in 4 different semantic categories and was either categorised (control) or randomised (experimental). Participants then recalled as many of the words as they could. The amount of words that they recalled was observed. Results: The difference in the number of words remembered between the two conditions was found to be insignificant when put to the independent t-test and tested at the 0.05 level. In fact, participants in Condition B (randomised) recalled more words on average than those in Condition A (organised). However, participants in Condition B showed 68.83% categorisation upon recall, compared with 0.5% that would have been shown if participants recalled the words in the order that they appeared on the radomised grid. Conclusion: The results suggest that the degree of organisation of information upon presentation does not affect the amount of information remembered. However, the actual process of mentally organising the information may be a significant factor in the amount of information remembered. Individual differences may affect the way the information is organised, but this study found that categorical organisation was the most common form of this. Introduction Much evidence suggests that information in memory is highly organised, and that we remember large amounts of information by associating it with other similar pieces of information already stored. It may even be that the organisation of information is a prerequisite for information to be stored; for example, Mandler (1967) ...read more.


Also interesting was the distribution of recalls by category: colours were recalled the most frequently (85/120), compared with sports and animals (both 77/120) and, least frequently, countries (64/120). There could be several explanations for this, but it appears to constitute primarily of two factors: the frequency of usage, and the size of the categories' domains. For example, colours are frequently used words and there are relatively few words that fall under that category; sports and animals are also categories from which often-used words are drawn, but there are many more words that fit into them than there are for colours; and countries are less frequently-used words. Therefore, a decrease in common usage and an increase in size may lead to proactive interference, causing more confusion and, occasionally, incorrect words to be recalled. This is demonstrated, for example, in that the word America was recalled three times despite it not being on any of the lists (see Appendix 1). In the results from Condition B, there is also evidence that primacy and recency may have occurred. Respectively, green and dog are the first and last words on the grid, and they were recalled by 10 and 9, respectively, of the 10 participants in that condition. No such effect was found, however, in Condition A, suggesting that the order in which words are sequenced has little effect if there is a more significant method of organisation present (in this case, categories). These patterns indicate that organisation is the key factor in remembering information, but at any one time there may be several methods of organisation occurring simultaneously, such as the words' semantic categories, the order that the words are written down, and the frequency of the words' usage, among others. This study did, however, have limitations; the most prominent of which is the potential lack of population validity as a result of the relatively small sample size used and the highly restricted age group from which participants were drawn. ...read more.


This eliminated any patterns, specifically semantic patterns, that may have arisen through manual randomisation. green horse tennis Uganda cow bird chimpanzee England cat China golf Finland red swimming white yellow badminton purple blue Germany football Australia rugby dog Appendix 5: Random word order script source code This script, whose source code is shown in a monospace font, was used in order to eliminate any chance of a pattern occurring accidentally as a result of human error. Line numbers are shown on the left. The script is written in PHP and can therefore be executed by embedding it in a HTML page on a PHP-compatible server, or otherwise by using a PHP compiler. 1: $wordid = array(); 2: $output = array(); Lines 3-12 put all integers from 1 to 24 in a random order in the array $output. 3: for($i = 1; $i <= 24; $i++) { 4: $wordid[] = $i; 5: } 6: 7: for($j = 1; $j <= 24; $j++) { 8: $key = mt_rand(0, count($wordid) - 1); 9: $output[] = $wordid[$key]; 10: unset($wordid[$key]); 11: sort($wordid); 12: } Lines 13-33 convert the numbers in $output to words. Line 15 avoids ambiguity between, for example [14] and [1][4]. E.g. [3] becomes [03]. Line 31 replaces the numerical values from $rep_num with the corresponding words in $rep_word and adds them to the final word list. 13: foreach($output as $num) { 14: 15: if($num <= 9) { $num = "0" . $num; } 16: 17: $rep_num = array( 18: "01", "02", "03", "04", "05", "06", 19: "07", "08", "09", "10", "11", "12", 20: "13", "14", "15", "16", "17", "18", 21: "19", "20", "21", "22", "23", "24" 22: ); 23: 24: $rep_word = array( 25: "football", "rugby", "tennis", "badminton", "golf", "swimming", 26: "bird", "cat", "dog", "horse", "cow", "chimpanzee", 27: "England", "Germany", "China", "Uganda", "Australia", "Finland", 28: "red", "green", "blue", "purple", "yellow", "white" 29: ); 30: 31: $wordlist .= str_replace($rep_num, $rep_word, $num) . " \n"; 32: 33: } Line 34 displays the randomised word list. 34: echo $wordlist; ...read more.

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