Prequestions do not enhance the benefits of retrieval in a STEM classroom

Jason Geller, Shana K. Carpenter, Monica H. Lamm, Shuhebur Rahman, Patrick I. Armstrong, Clark R. Coffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Answering questions before a learning episode—“prequestions”—can enhance memory for that information. A number of studies have explored this effect in the laboratory; however, few studies have examined prequestions in a classroom setting. In the current study, the effects of prequestions were examined in an undergraduate course in chemical engineering. At the start of several class meetings, students were provided with a prequestion to answer about the upcoming lesson, and then were asked to provide ratings of confidence in their answers, familiarity with the content in the prequestion, and how much of the assigned reading they had completed. At the end of class, students were given the same question again (postquestion), along with a different question from the same lesson (new question). On a quiz at the end of each week, students were given the postquestions and new questions again, in addition to never-before-seen questions (quiz-only questions) from the same lessons. Performance on questions at the end of class revealed no difference in performance for postquestions vs. new questions. Although weekly quiz performance revealed an effect of retrieval practice—superior memory for material tested at the end of class (postquestions and new questions) compared to material not tested (quiz-only questions)—there was no difference in weekly quiz performance on postquestions vs. new questions. These results suggest that retrieval practice is beneficial to learning in the classroom. However, prequestions do not appear to enhance learning, nor to enhance the effects of retrieval practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Classroom
  • Engineering education
  • Prequestions
  • Retrieval practice


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