Making it Stick: Using Cognitive Science and Technology to Enhance the Impact of Financial Education

This project, funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education and conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College, evaluated the effectiveness of learning interventions on participants’ knowledge recall, self-confidence, and behaviors following a credit-focused financial education workshop. The study focused on a group of 175 college students and how the workshop impacted their knowledge of credit, credit management behavior, and confidence in their knowledge and credit management ability.

Participants were randomly assigned to either one of two treatment groups or a control group. A “massed” treatment group completed the first and second study and quiz sessions within 48 hours of attending the initial workshop. The other group, called the “spaced” treatment group, completed the first study and quiz session within one week of the initial workshop and the second study four weeks after. The control group completed study activities unrelated to financial education. Twenty weeks after each group completed their work, participants completed a final assessment of their credit knowledge, management behaviors, and self-efficacy.

Results show that participants in the “spaced” group performed significantly better on knowledge questions than those in the “massed” or control groups. Conversely, there was no statistically distinguishable difference between how groups performed in the “confidence in knowledge” and “confidence in ability” categories. Researchers also found that confidence in knowledge and confidence in ability were moderately positively related to credit behavior.

This research suggests that cognitive learning principles like spaced retrieval, which have shown to be effective in other disciplines, may be effective for college financial education programming. While these findings show potential for changing college-level financial education for the better, they are not generalizable to other populations without additional research.

Research in Review (PDF)
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