Final Report: Optimum Learning Environment

This topic submitted by Samn Barnhouse, Beth Beane, Gen Miller, Brandon Pargeon, Jessika Vargas ( ) on 12/11/98 .


Samn Barnhouse
Beth Beane
Gen Miller
Brandon Pargeon
Jessika Vargas

NS 1
Olivia Campbell
December 11, 1998
Student Generated Lab


When our lab group first got together to think about an idea for the student generated lab, we all decided right away that we wanted to experiment with something other than plants, water, and natural processes. So we decided that our discovery lab would examine how students learn in different environments, such as inside, outside, and at different times of day. Our hypothesis was that children will learn best in the mornings and outside, while young adults will retain information best in the early evening and inside. This experiment is important to us as students because we are studying how we can best learn in situations like college, where we must decide where and when to study.
In our research we have found that many experiments and studies have been conducted concerning short-term memory and the retention of knowledge. These researchers know that in order to understand the reason why some things are remembered and some are not, one must know the environment under which learning takes place. The problem that arises when studying memory is the need for testing conditions that are similar to everyday life in order to generalize the results outside of the laboratory. (Gruenberg, Morris). It has been proven that subjects best remember series of around six icons, objects, numbers, letters, or concepts, so we used seven numbers in each number series used to test the subjects. (Underwood, Geoffery). We researched the different facets in the relationship between memory and attention to obtain a clear picture of how best to be effective in testing our subjects. We looked at such broad subject areas as short-term and long-term memory, attentional focus and conscious awareness, memory activation, and memory persistence. (Cowan, Nelson). We tried to avoid distractions and keep the time between memorization and testing very short, as our research has shown that these factors could improve the information retention. (Herriod, Peter). We believe we were successful in this. Also, we learned that audio and visual learning are quite different from each other, and that some people are audio learners and some are visual learners. (Underwood, Geoffery). To avoid biased results, we incorporated both audio and visual elements into our experiment.
Overall, our results from this experiment should be helpful to the students at Miami who wish to maximize the effectiveness of their study habits. Our tests have shown that at certain times of day and environments, students donít retain as much information as in other times of day and environments. This knowledge is useful in that it makes students aware of when they need to make sure they are paying extra attention or studying extra hard. Students can also make sure that they do the bulk of their studying in their optimum learning environment.
Our group was interested in finding out whether environment has any effect on learning retention, and if so, what optimum learning environments can be generalized for a majority of children and young adults. We chose these two groups of people because they are the ones who are in school and learning the most. Two variables we used were time of day and learning inside versus outside. There are many other variables that we could have tested, but it would have made the project too complex in relation to the time we had to complete it. We gave the subjects a piece of paper with a number sequence on it and had them study it for thirty seconds. Then after four minutes we tested them on the material. We incorporated both audio and visual elements to accommodate more people. Afterwards, we asked them to fill out a survey reporting on their sleep the previous night, if they experienced distraction while studying, how they felt at the moment, and what they believed to be their optimum learning environment. We took these answers into account when analyzing the data, using them as potential explanations for the results. We performed the same experiment for inside and outside and each time of day. Rather than have the class help gather data, our group used everyone as test subjects, since they fall into our second experimental category, which is young adults. The tests were the same as described previously: two different sets of number sequences that were given to the class both orally and visually. The class also gave us feedback on our experimental design early on in the process. One of the suggestions was to use kids as a group to test. Many also warned us that we had many variables, maybe too many. We took their advice and lowered the number of variables we started out with.

After analyzing our data and completing a t-test, we came to some surprising conclusions. The t-test showed that the p-value was less than point five, so we knew that the differences in the comparison results between inside, outside, am and pm were not great enough to be significant. Since we couldnít really make any observations within the two groups we tested, as far as significant differences in the variables, we compared the groups themselves. What we found, and what surprised us the most is the fact that, overall, the children performed much better than the young adults. This was surprising because we thought that since young adults have been in school longer, they should be better able to concentrate and do well. The only explanation we could think of, was that the children would have been more intimidated because we are older, and would have taken the test more seriously.
This lab has been an enjoyable as well as educational experience for each of the group members. The people we tested were very cooperative and found our experiment interesting as well. Upon completing our experiments and analysis, we reflected on the results. We thought about how the experimental design could be further developed so that the p-value would increase, showing enough differences in the comparisons to be significant. We thought a possible solution to this would be to increase the number of people tested and add more variables. It could be that the variables we chose really weren't significantly different in their effect on learning retention, and other variables would prove to be more significant. It would be worthwhile for anybody to continue testing because it would enhance the knowledge we have gained from our experience.
9/7 Brainstorming on ideas for lab
9/21 Deciding on variables
9/30 Analysis of Literature
10/5 Experimentation
11/2 Consolidating all our data
11/9 Making Data Charts, Graphs
11/16 Analyzing Data
11/30 Presentation
12/7 Writing Final Lab Packet


1). Cowan, Nelson. Attention and Memory. Oxford, 1995.

2). Gruneberg, Michael M. and Morris, Peter. Aspects of Memory. London: Methuen and Co., 1978.

3). Herriod, Peter. Attributes of Memory. London: Methuen and Co., 1974.

4). Underwood, Geoffery. Attention and Memory. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1976.

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