To Learn More, Take a Test

The NY Times has an article about how taking a test helps memory.

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The abstract for the original study from Science is available on the net.

One of the professors from my college was less than impressed with the article and the study.

The NYT really screwed this one up.

The headline is “To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test.” The article repeatedly emphasizes “test” as the concept that was “tested” in the research, but from the one passage that describes this “test,” you see that the research (one project, which hardly settles any argument) supports NOT the scantron, bubble-it-in approach, but WRITING. No surprise for those of us who teach Composition and Lit, among others who actually make their students write.

Though there is a lot of chatter on the net (and through email) about this particular study, the information in it is not new. I’ve been having my students read a similar article from the 2006 Live Science site.

Taking Tests Improves Memory says:

new research suggests that the very act of taking a test is enough to enhance long-term memory. Furthermore, testing helps students remember not only what they studied for the test, but also related, non-tested concepts.

The results “imply that as long as students retrieved a concept, other related concepts should also receive a boost,” the researchers write in the November [2006] issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

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