Few people enjoy having knowledge gaps exposed by formal testing, but those who receive this corrective feedback are more likely to retain information over time, according to studies by Washington University’s Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke.
Their work confirms considerable previous research, and the idea that testing acts as a “meditator” to retrieve stored information, suggested by Kent State University’s Mary A. Pyc and Katherine A. Rawson.
Participants in Roediger and Karpicke’s investigation read texts and were tested by writing as much as they recalled of selected sections, rather than completing a multiple choice test or writing a critical thinking essay on the topic.
Volunteers recalled about 70 percent of the ideas they’d read, then re-read the
remaining passages that were not tested.
Delayed testing on both sets of readings occurred after two days or seven days, and volunteers were significantly more able to remember material on which they’d been tested.
Roediger and Karpicke noted that testing requires people to retrieve knowledge from memory, rather than merely acquire information as when reading or listening to a lecture.
The testing effect, also known as the retrieval practice effect, strengthens learning by embedding information in memory.
Most effective testing is integrated into learning with frequent, low-stakes checkpoints in contrast to less frequent, higher-stakes testing in the traditional British education system, they suggested.
Additionally, “interpolated testing” during learning activities enables people to sustain attention, reduce mind wandering, test anxiety, and perceived “cognitive load,” found Harvard’s Karl K. Szpunar, Novall Y. Khan, and Daniel L. Schacter.
The testing effect can benefit people who have previously under-performed relative to their peers, and are under-represented in courses, reported University of Washington’s Sarah L Eddy and Mary Pat Wenderoth with Sara E Brownell of Arizona State University.
They evaluated women’s academic achievement and participation in class discussions in more than 20 large university biology courses.
Unlike in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, 60% of the students were women.
However, they responded to only 40% of questions posed by the instructor during classes, much less than their representation in the course.
In addition, these women achieved lower exam scores than men with similar overall academic performance.
However, when the researchers introduced frequent, low-stakes testing – even without providing test results – women’s information retention and accessing significantly improved.
Frequent low-stakes testing integrated into learning activities leads to longer-term information comprehension, retention, and application – and this frequent exposure to a sometimes-feared or disliked activity can reduce avoidant reactions.
-*How effective do you find frequent tests to increase recall and retention of learning materials?
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