7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.
Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0096-34184.108.40.2068
In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.
Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691613504114
Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.
Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.43.1.39
In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.
Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2012.03.004
Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.
Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532
In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.
Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF. http://arxiv.org/abs/1410.1490v2
Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.
In the last decade or two, researchers have been able to take advantage of larger numbers of test subjects and better data analysis methods to come up with interesting new ideas on why people make spelling mistakes. This is useful information for parents and teachers who are looking for ways to help children learn to spell, and also for adults who find they’re making mistakes more often than they’d like. By using these studies to identify the most frequent mistakes, it helps people target these errors and focus on eliminating them. Many of these studies are done using groups of children, because it’s during the early years of education that children learn how to spell correctly. One of the most comprehensive studies was done in 1995 by Ronald Cramer and James Cipielewski, and involved over 18,000 children, resulting in an excellent overview of common spelling errors.
One of the most common mistakes was using the wrong vowel; in fact, over one-third of the total errors made were due to this type of mistake. It’s easy to understand why so many students confused the vowels in words, since the relationship between sounds and letters is often unclear for English vowels. For the most part, the students used vowels or vowel clusters that represented the correct sound when used in other words, just not the particular word they were spelling. For example, think of word and bird and heard (and say them out loud to test the sounds) – the vowels in combination with the letter r all make the same sound, but all are spelled differently. It’s not surprising when children take the familiar spelling of bird and logically, to them, try to spell the others as wird and hird. One way to help children avoid this error is to practice these different phonemes and the various ways they can be spelled. Once they’ve seen the alternate spellings of a sound, they’ll find it easier to remember.
Another pattern that emerged from the study was the frequent dropping of doubled letters. It’s hard to explain why words like letter and missile use double consonants, because the t and s sounds don’t change. In this case, vowels are easier to understand, because there’s an obvious difference between the sounds of single and double vowels, from the short to the long vowel sounds. The difference between loot and lot is easy to see and hear. Of course, there’s the issue of explaining the word look (in most cases pronounced LEUK and not LOOHK) and why that’s a doubled vowel as well, but again, presenting these words together for consideration will eliminate a lot of confusion.
The next most common mistake, one which many adults continue to make, is confusing spellings of homophones. The study found that the words too/to/two and they’re/their/there occurred at all grade levels. Only regular practice with word groups like this will help children (and adults!) overcome the tendency for errors. Again, once a student sees these groups together and focuses on learning the correct spelling and usage of each, the better they’ll be able to automatically spell them in the future.
Reference: R.L. Cramer, J. F. Cipielewski. Research in Action: A Study of Spelling Errors in 18,599 Written Compositions of Children in Grades 1-8. Spelling Research and Information: An Overview of Current Research and Practices. (1995)
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