Using the primacy effect to increase student achievement in science
Robertson, Seth D.
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Research shows that people tend to remember the first information they receive better than information that follows. In essence, the old adage "first impressions count" is true in learning as well. Although there is research to show that this phenomena, known as the primacy effect, or serial position effect, is pronounced in remembering lists of simple symbols; i.e. letters or numbers, the purpose of this study was to see its effect in longer lessons focused on very specific parts of the scientific method. I used the primacy effect to test how effective it was in increasing student performance in variable identification similar to our state's standardized science test. The results showed that the students who received instruction about variable identification at the beginning of class consistently outperformed those who got that instruction at other times of the lesson. The implications of this study are that the learning cycle of instruction, practice, assessment can be highly effective in practicing specific skills in a science classroom. Furthermore, in a classroom where lessons are broken into short, developmentally appropriate blocks of time, instruction toward an overreaching concept can be effectively taught at the beginning of a lesson.