This week’s article is VERY exciting to me. It discusses the use of mnemonics (acronyms in particular) in the retention of academic material (specifically the scientific method). There are several reasons this article excited me.
Acronyms may be the most well known mnemonic device around. Any little girl who played MASH has used an acronym. Gamers who have ever referred to an ‘MMORPG’ or ‘WOW’, or (my current favorite) ‘LOL’, have used acronyms. We see it every day in ‘textese’. In elementary school, we used acrostics as a way of introducing ourselves to others, or on those homemade Mother’s Day cards, just in cause our mom’s forgot who we were. Though there are mnemonics that I, personally, use more often, acronyms work for all grade levels, is often used with individuals with learning disabilities, and can be spontaneously and deliberately used for information retention and presentation (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000).
These researchers presented the acronym HOMER (as in, Homer Simpson), as a method of remembering the scientific method: hypothesize, operationalize, measure, evaluate, replicate/revise/report.
Though they discuss, in true to research fashion, the limits of their research (and yes, they actually conducted empirical research… which totally made me laugh out loud), they found that students consistently remember the material better when using this particular acronym. The purpose of the article seems to be not the praise-singing of memory mnemonics, but specifically the use of HOMER in any psychology courses during which the scientific method will be presented. They also made sure to measure (the M in HOMER) the enjoyment that students got out of using this acronym.
My favorite thing about this article is that the researchers turned it into a full on study. They produced statistics (presented in their results, but I won’t present them here), discussed the limitations of their research (e.g., different instructors, no random assignment, etc.), and show how something that seems so small or intuitive, can still be (and should be) presented using the very acronym they’re teaching.
And you thought learning psychology couldn’t be fun. Sheesh.
Lakin, J., Giesler, R., Morris, K., & Vosmik, J. (2007). HOMER as an acronym for the scientific method. Teaching of Psychology, 34(2), 94-96.
Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2000). The effectiveness of mnemonic instruction for students with learning and behavior problems: An update and research synthesis. Journal of Behavioral Education, 10(2-3), 163-163-173. doi:10.1023/A:1016640214368