Prof. Chloë Marshall led a discussion of two papers recently published by Laurence Leonard and his colleagues in the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. They investigated some of the factors that can enhance word learning in children with developmental language disorder (DLD). Paper 1 investigated whether children with DLD, and also typically developing children, learnt words better when they were required to actively retrieve them, rather than just studying them. The authors found that active retrieval on repeated occasions was indeed more effective than repeated study, both when children were tested immediately on those words and when they were tested a week later.
Paper 2 developed this line of research further by comparing two different retrieval schedules – an immediate retrieval schedule, and an interleaved retrieval schedule. The interleaved retrieval schedule was more effective at supporting children with DLD and typically developing children to learn words. Interestingly, the study in paper 2 also incorporated event-related potentials (ERPs) whose data revealed that words were learnt better in the interleaved retrieval condition, supporting the behavioural data.
The papers generated lots of interesting discussion about (1) how neuroimaging methods could be used to support behavioural methods in intervention studies, (2) what the neurological mechanisms underlying the advantage for interleaved retrieval might be, and (3) how far interleaved retrieval might be incorporated into the teaching of vocabulary across all curriculum areas and for all children. We also discussed how interleaved retrieval might be used beyond teaching vocabulary, for example, as here, in maths.