Saturday 22 January 2011

To Learn, Take a Test

Heard about this report on several blogs, Gas station without pumps and a Quantum Blog in particular

Here is a cut from Quantum Blog:

The article, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test Already, reports on new research findings reported in Science that students who take a test asking them to actively recall information retain more than those who simply “study” or make concept maps. But what is awesome about this study is they didn’t just measure how the students performed using the various study strategies, it also measured how the students thought they performed.
Here is the money quote from the NYT:
These other methods [rereading notes and concept mapping] not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.
In the experiments, the students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using one of the methods to learn the material. Those who took the test after reading the passage predicted they would remember less than the other students predicted — but the results were just the opposite.

I have worked for the last few years to learn to sit quietly in staff development days when they present each new "best practice".  Now I can set quietly and SMILE... Ain't research grand.

The actual article is here in Science, but they charge mega-bucks to download... go to the library instead. 

SO... my newest new years resolution.... give a test in every class every week..


Steven Colyer said...

Hmm, I think almost oppositely. I would eliminate all testing, and replace that with more homework. I feel the present system rewards quick thinkers (I'm talking timed tests) over deep thinkers.

We need both, of course. Airplane and jet pilots should be quick thinkers. Deep thinkers like Mathematician Roger Penrose, however, are not rewarded by time pressure.

Then again, as a senior in high school, our very-hated English teacher forced us to learn vocabulary words via "Daily Checks", short 10-word vocabulary tests. At the end of each class she gave us 10 words to memorize for the next class, when she'd test us on the words. Short, simple, and we hated her for it.

Is our children learning yet? No clue. But the "German rote" method of memorizing and spitting back the information is widely hated, regardless of its effectiveness at the time of testing. Much is not retained IMO, compared with giving the student a thoughtful problem, and the time to figure it out, in which self-education is promoted and IMO, more likely to be retained.

Well, no one ever said education was easy.

Pat's Blog said...

But Penrose was a child prodigy..he Was one of those "quick thinkers" as well.

Besides, no one said testing had to be regurgitation of memorized facts..if you teach thinking about the ideas rather than memorizing the formulas, then a challenging test gives a student a chance to apply that reasoning...AND REMEMBER it longer, it appears.

I hate grading, but love trying to solve problems... (testing?)... and I love teaching kids to become problem solvers, which means asking challenging questions in class, on homework, and on tests.

Thanks for your thoughts

Steven Colyer said...

Wait a minute, didn't Penrose admit it took him a long time to digest mathematics, that he was very careful thus slow when understanding the concepts? Hmm, maybe I'm confusing him with Julian Barbour. But I don't think so; I'll have to do some research.

There is however no disputing that Penrose is a genius. Then there's the whole thing about some people being better at geometrical abstract thinking than analysis via equations. In that sense I'm definitely a geometer, but no need to get into that now.

Everything else you said shows you're a good teacher. Alas, here in the States, that would put you in the minority.