Friday, January 21, 2011

Taking Tests Actually Helps Students Learn (more than studying or concept mapping)

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 two other studying techniques.

The research, published online in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.” -NY Times 1/21/11

Science 2011 Karpicke Science.1199327