Purdue University, USA
What does your research focus on?
Research in my laboratory sits at the interface between cognitive science and education. Our research has been especially focused on the importance of retrieval processes for learning. My goal is to identify effective strategies that promote long-term meaningful learning and comprehension.
What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?
There is a significant need now for research that integrates the theoretical tools and methods from cognitive science with the content and learning goals in education. This is an exciting time to be conducting this research because there is the potential to have an impact both on theoretical ideas about how the mind works and on practical strategies that can be used in educational settings.
Who were/are your mentors or psychological influences?
I have had three outstanding academic mentors: David Pisoni, my undergraduate mentor at Indiana University; Henry (Roddy) Roediger, my graduate mentor at Washington University in St. Louis; and James Nairne, my mentor and colleague at Purdue University. In addition, my father John Karpicke, sparked my interest in the scientific study of learning when I was young. I am extremely grateful to these four people. I am also very fortunate to have several great colleagues and a terrific group of students who have influenced me in many ways.
To what do you attribute your success in the science?
I think our work has garnered some attention and had some impact because we are attempting to integrate ideas from the cognitive science of learning within research on real-world problems in education. I think the time is ripe for this approach, and learning is something that many people care a great deal about.
What’s your future research agenda?
There are many ways to expand cognitive research on learning in educational directions. We need to continue expanding this research by examining individual differences in learner characteristics, by using materials that are identical to those used in educational settings, by examining learning strategies that would be plausible in education, and by assessing meaningful learning, which includes peoples’ abilities to make inferences, transfer and apply their knowledge, and solve new problems in creative ways.
Any advice for even younger psychological scientists? What would you tell someone just now entering graduate school or getting their PhD?
Throughout your entire educational career (K-16), you have been rewarded for being a good consumer of knowledge. You learn lots of things, do well on tests and other activities, and get good grades. Then, all of the sudden the rules change, and there is no longer a premium placed on what you can consume. You are now rewarded for the quality of what you can produce. I encourage my students to change their mindset from that of a consumer to that of a producer as soon as they can.
Please write a sentence or two about the publication you are most proud of or feel has been most important to your career. As challenging as it may be, please limit it to one publication.
Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331, 772-775.
I am proud of this paper for many reasons. It brought a good deal of attention to our research program, and I think it represents a good example of research that integrates cognitive science and education. But I am perhaps proudest because this work was Janell Blunt’s undergraduate honors thesis research project, and I am proud of all of her hard work.
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