Thursday, July 05, 2007

Frequent and Immediate Testing Increases Memory

One of my teachers sent me this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that summarizes the benefits of immediate and frequent testing to increase long term memory. It begins with a study done in 1939 that demonstrated students performing much better if they had been quizzed within 24 hours after receiving new information. The author concluded.
"Immediate recall in the form of a test is an effective method of aiding the retention of learning and should, therefore, be employed more frequently in the elementary school."

There were a few more nuggets to chew on. One concept that was reinforced over several studies was that when you test students, the very act of asking them to recall information, changed what they actually remembered.
"People usually imagine memory as a storage space, as a space where we put things, as if they were books in a library. But the act of retrieval is not neutral. It affects the system."

Also, short-answer quizzes produced better results than multiple choice quizzes. Here are the results of students given information in three different formats.
A month later, the students were brought back to take a 90-item short-answer test that covered all three artists. This final test included some facts that the students had not reviewed at all. On those items, the students answered only 20 percent correct, on average. On the items that had been studied through rereading or through multiple-choice quizzes, the students averaged 36 percent correct. And on the items that had been studied through short-answer quizzes, the students averaged 47 percent correct.

I think this also underscores the need to have students write what they know, even if they simply summarize the learning for the day or list the ideas and knowledge that they have gained during a period of the day. I always liked a quote from Advancement Through Individual Determination (AVID), which stated, "How do I know what I think until I read what I write?"
The most damning quotes comes from Andrew Butler, a graduate student in Washington, who administered the aforementioned study.
"A lot of educators don't make the connection between their teaching tasks and their evaluation tasks," he says.
"The way that we typically do things in education," Mr. Butler says, "seems almost reverse-engineered to produce the least possible learning."

Well, let's test this out. After reading the article, here is your quiz:
What type of memory is most affected by immediate and frequent quizzing?
Describe the study(ies) that were used to come to this conclusion?
Enjoy your summer vacation!

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