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Hello and happy Monday! Thanks for checking out this week’s issue of Learning Science Weekly. We’re kicking things off with a quick thanks to the illustrious and eagle-eyed Will Thalheimer who clarified the takeaway from our last issue on virtual reality (VR); while VR outperformed traditional training, he correctly noted that immersive VR technologies (which we consider as the traditional head-mounted VR display) produced slightly overall worse outcomes than programs utilizing non-immersive VR technologies (such as VR displayed on a monitor). We’ll note that this was only one study, and we’ll continue to report on VR’s efficacy in training here. Thanks Will for catching that and for subscribing!

Up first this week: job opportunities!

8-bit Commitment

Digital Promise, a 501(c)(3) that “works at the intersection of education leaders, researchers, and technology developers to improve learning opportunities for all and close the Digital Learning Gap,” has two post-doctoral opportunities in learning science; find more and apply here.

Quiz Me!

We know that breaking up lengthy learning sessions with quizzes can help improve prior learning (see van den Broek et al., 2016), but did you know that it can also increase future learning? This “forward testing effect” (see Chan, Meissner, & Davis, 2018) has been widely studied, but one question remained: does retrieval potentiate new learning when retrieval stops but new learning continues? In an article that summarized four experiments, researchers from Iowa State University (go Cardinals!) found that retrieval did increase the effect of new learning even when testing discontinued; “however, the beneficial effects of retrieval on future learning diminished rapidly when additional encoding occurred in the absence of further retrievals” (p. 17). The data from these studies suggest that asking questions frequently during a learning experience may help learners develop better strategies and help them engage with the material. No brainer, right? Sometimes it’s just nice to have proof.

Key Takeaway: Frequent small quizzes for learners are beneficial -- not only to help them remember what they just learned, but also to help them remember what they will learn.

Read More: Chan, J.C.K., Manley, K.D., & Ahn, D. (2020). Does retrieval potentiate new learning when retrieval stops but new learning continues? Journal of Memory and Language, 115.

Amelia Farid is a 5th-year doctoral candidate in the Science and Math Education program at UC Berkeley and a Spencer/NAEd dissertation fellow. Her research focuses on the co-development of mathematical practices and conceptual understanding. Her dissertation work investigates undergraduate students' engagement in mathematical practices of defining and the link between engagement in those practices and content knowledge of fraction arithmetic.

Sleeping Beauty

At LSW we’re big fans of napping, and when it comes to learning, sleep plays an important role. Sleep deprivation prior to learning reduces information processing (see Zagaar et al., 2012), and sleep deprivation after learning impairs memory formation (see Alhaider et al., 2011). A recent study found that sleep-deprived rats had better synaptic plasticity if they voluntarily ran on a wheel for a few weeks prior to not sleeping, indicating that exercise may improve the deficits introduced by sleep deprivation. The key takeaway here may be that if your rats are sleep-deprived and having a hard time working their Barnes maze, you should take them for a run around the neighborhood.

Key Takeaway: Applied to humans… regular exercise increases brain plasticity and could reduce the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation.

Read More: Rajizadeh, M.A., Esmaeilpour, K., Haghparast, E., Ebrahimi, M.N., & Sheibani, V. (2020). Voluntary exercise modulates learning & memory and synaptic plasticity impairments in sleep deprived female rats. Brain Research, 1729.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

Thanks to Dawn M. for this pic of Casey and Max, bird hunters extraordinaire!

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!