There are many pedagogical techniques used by educators in higher education; however, some techniques and activities have been shown to be more beneficial to student learning than others. Research has demonstrated that active learning and learning in which students cognitively engage with the material in a multitude of ways result in better understanding and retention. The aim of the present study was to determine which of three pedagogical techniques led to improvement in learning and retention in undergraduate college students. Subjects partook in one of three different types of pedagogical engagement: hands-on learning with a model, observing someone else manipulate the model, and traditional lecture-based presentation. Students were then asked to take an online quiz that tested their knowledge of the new material, both immediately after learning the material and 2 wk later. Students who engaged in direct manipulation of the model scored higher on the assessment immediately after learning the material compared with the other two groups. However, there were no differences among the three groups when assessed after a 2-wk retention interval. Thus active learning techniques that involve direct interaction with the material can lead to learning benefits; however, how these techniques benefit long-term retention of the information is equivocal.
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