Friday, August 14, 2015

The Testing Effect (or "Retrieval Practice")

I met Annie Murphy Paul (@anniemurphypaul) on Twitter, and she sent me this fascinating article about what Cognitive researchers are calling the "Testing Effect" (in the article, some researchers talk about renaming it "Retrieval Practice")

Researchers Find That Frequent Tests Can Boost Learning

It's a good read: summarizes several studies that show how we can (and should) "treat tests as occasions for learning" rather than simply grading/evaluation tools. It's based on a fairly simple and intuitive idea: frequent, small "tests" of understanding (e.g. interrupting readings or a lecture with a multiple short questions that all students have to answer and think about) increase the chances that learners will be able to retrieve the information later. The article includes several practical classroom examples.

This could be a GREAT discussion during the Cognition unit (especially if you talk about Cognition early in the course and discuss effective studying methods).

A few quotes from the article that summarize the findings:
  • "Every time a student calls up knowledge from memory, that memory changes. Its mental representation becomes stronger, more stable and more accessible."
  • "Our minds are sensitive to the likelihood that we'll need knowledge at a future time, and if we retrieve a piece of information now, there's a good chance we'll need it again,”
  • “The process of retrieving a memory alters that memory in anticipation of demands we may encounter in the future.”
As a former psychology teacher and current assessment specialist, I'm fascinated by the possibilities: can we figure out efficient and effective ways to help students "quiz" themselves while studying? While listening to a lecture? While reading their text? How should these findings influence students as they study for your tests, and/or the AP or IB test? Hmm. Any of you have thoughts or techniques to share?

posted by Rob McEntarffer


Unknown said...

I give my AP Psych students short multiple choice quizzes (about 10 questions)on their assigned reading. It works out to 3 or 4 quizzes/chapter. Students complain about the quizzes because it holds them accountable for doing the reading. It's interesting though, that at the end of the school year when I survey my students they ALWAYS recommend I keep the frequent quizzes. I think I'll stop calling them quizzes and call them retrieval practice! Thanks for the article!

mariavita said...

I LOVE the idea of calling quizzes "retrieval practice!" Good idea! All our students need more of this "retrieval" in the form of quizzes, rewriting charts, etc. Even in my early undergraduate studies, I thought "studying" meant "looking over" my notes! This was an AWFUL approach and I learned quickly to rewrite things and make concept maps for organizational encoding. Thanks Rob for posting this!!