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Jason Chan makes a point to periodically interrupt his lecture and ask students a question about the material they’ve covered. The associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University does this to regain students’ attention, but more importantly, to enhance their ability to learn new information.

Researchers know the retrieval process is beneficial for new learning and a new meta-analysis by Chan and his colleagues confirms that but found there are limits. The research shows the frequency and difficulty of questions can reverse the effect and be detrimental to learning. It also is not enough to simply ask a question; Chan says students must respond to see a positive effect on learning. The work is published in the Psychological Bulletin, an American Psychological Association journal. (1)

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