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Wednesday, June 22 • 13:30 - 14:20
CON02.14 - At the Intersection of Cognitive Science and Education: Gamifying 2nd Year Neuroscience Course to Encourage Retrieval-Based Learning

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Latest research suggests that what we traditionally consider as “learning” - the “encoding or acquisition of new information” (Karpicke & Nunes, 2015), is only one half of the equation. The other, arguably more important half, consists of retrieval processes, those “involved in using available cues to actively reconstruct knowledge” (Karpicke, 2012). Recent findings in cognitive psychology tell us that practicing active retrieval enhances long-term, meaningful learning in significant ways, and that it could be a more active and effective learning strategy than many currently popular “active learning” strategies (Blunt & Karpicke, 2011).

As instructors and instructional designers we are faced with three big challenges: 1) How to design retrieval-based activities; 2) How to raise awareness about the importance and effects of this learning strategy that “too many students lack metacognitive awareness of” (Karpicke, 2012); and 3) How to promote and encourage students to engage in learning activities that require significant effort but produce longer-lasting results.

To tackle these challenges posed by leading researchers in the field, we have incorporated online activities that balance retrieval difficulty and retrieval success, in a traditionally challenging second year, high-enrollment, core Neuroscience course (“Biological Foundations of Behaviour”), designed in a blended format. To motivate students to engage with the activities, some gamification principles were utilized. Apart from formative and summative assessment spread throughout the course, students are also required to take a final, live, cumulative exam. In this presentation we will discuss the potential relationship between student success and some engagement patterns with online retrieval-based activities, and their success in a final exam.

The main audience for this presentation is instructors and instructional designers. The participants will leave the session with the awareness of the latest research in the field, and with possible strategies for designing activities which promote and encourage retrieval-based learning.


Blunt, J.R., & Karpicke, J. D. (2011). Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping. Science 331, 772 (2011); DOI: 10.1126/science.1199327

Karpicke, J. D. (2012). Retrieval-based learning: Active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 157-163.

Karpicke, J. D., & Nunes, L.D. (2015). Retrieval-based learning: Research at the interface between cognitive science and education. In R. A. Scott & S. M. Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (pp. 1-16). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

avatar for Kim Hellemans

Kim Hellemans

Instructor, Carleton University
Kim Hellemans, PhD is the Undergraduate Chair at the Department of Neuroscience at Carleton University, Ottawa. Dr. Hellemans has an extensive experience teaching courses in face-to-face, blended and distance format, for which she has received several prestigious teaching awards including... Read More →
avatar for Maristela Petrovic-Dzerdz

Maristela Petrovic-Dzerdz

Instructional Design Coordinator, Carleton University
Maristela Petrovic-Dzerdz, MEng, BEd, PBDID designs online and blended courses and advises faculty on best teaching and learning practices grounded in theory and research. Passionate about education, Maristela is also a graduate student of Distance Education at Athabasca University... Read More →

Wednesday June 22, 2016 13:30 - 14:20 EDT
Weldon Library 258