Friday, December 01, 2006

Testing as a tool for learning?

Here's an article from Scientific American that's sure to depress many students: "Testing Improves Retention -- Even of Material Not on Exam." (via

"Teachers who give tests on a daily or weekly basis--often at the expense of their popularity--can take solace in a new study out of Washington University in St. Louis. Researchers found that tests help students remember what they've been taught--including the material that doesn't appear on the exam. The findings appear in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General."

However, not all agree with the study's findings. Michael Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, "notes that over 80 published articles in the field claim that testing actually harms retention, a phenomenon called 'retrieval-induced forgetting.'"

But the study's authors remain convinced, and conclude that "courses should proceed via 'a study-test-study-test schedule' rather than studying, reviewing and then being tested. 'Restudying a subset of the learned material will not produce enhancement for the remaining material--presumably because restudying is a more passive learning process than is testing,'" says the lead researcher. (Remember yesterday's discussion of Finland's education success? Teachers there use monthly testing.)

Food for thought....


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