Less highlighting equals to more learning

Friday, July 5, 2024

If you scroll through the average student’s digital textbook or reading, you will probably see multi-coloured streaks scattered everywhere. However, new research reveals that excessive highlighting may do more harm than good.

Computer scientists from Waterloo investigated whether technology controlling the number of words a user can highlight could affect their reading comprehension.

“There are lots of theories in psychology that show having constraints is really beneficial, especially for encouraging creativity,” says Nikhita Joshi (MMath ’20), a PhD student specializing in human-computer interaction (HCI) research at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. “Traditionally, software constraints were mainly used for error-proofing. However, my research focuses on using constraints to influence positive outcomes for users, which I call ‘bounded interactions.’”

These theories inspired Joshi and her supervisor Dr. Daniel Vogel to recruit 127 participants to read a short story. After 24 hours, they completed a reading comprehension test, answering 20 multiple-choice questions within five minutes. The participants were divided into three groups: no highlights, limited highlights of 150 words and unlimited highlights.

Read the full article on Waterloo News

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