When Is Practice Testing Most Effective for Improving the Durability and Efficiency of Student Learning?
- 2.2k Downloads
Although summative testing is often maligned within educational communities, practice testing is one of the most well-established strategies for improving student learning. Despite the wealth of empirical evidence that testing can enhance learning, teachers and students underutilize practice testing as a learning strategy. Accordingly, a high-level goal of this paper is to advocate for increased use of practice testing as a means for improving student learning. To this end, we discuss prior research establishing the generality of test-enhanced learning as well as prior research that points to conditions under which practice testing is particularly effective. We then summarize some recent research that explores schedules of practice testing that will not only produce durable learning, but will do so most efficiently. To briefly foreshadow, a particularly effective schedule involves practicing retrieval until target information is correctly recalled once during initial learning and then relearned to one correct recall in three to four subsequent sessions. Finally, we argue that exploring both criteria—durability and efficiency—can be valuable for evaluating the utility of learning techniques, and we offer some basic prescriptive conclusions for students and educators as well as recommendations for future research.
KeywordsTest-enhanced learning Retrieval practice Testing effects Relearning Long-term retention Efficiency
- Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K.A., Marsh, E.J., Nathan, M.J., & Willingham, D.T. (2012). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. (in press).Google Scholar
- Gurung, R. A. R. (2005). How do students really study (and does it matter)? Teaching of Psychology, 32, 239–241.Google Scholar
- Landauer, T. K., McNamara, D. S., Dennis, S., & Kintsch, W. (2007). Handbook of latent semantic analysis. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Nelson, T. O. (1985). Ebbinghaus’s contribution to the measurement of retention: Savings during relearning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11, 472–479.Google Scholar
- Rawson, K.A., & Dunlosky, J. (2012). Retrieval-monitoring-feedback (RMF) technique for producing efficient and durable student learning. To appear in R. Azevedo & V. Aleven (Eds.), International Handbook of Metacognition and Learning Technologies (in press).Google Scholar
- Roediger, H. L., III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255. Google Scholar
- Vaughn, K.E., & Rawson, K.A. (2012). When is guessing incorrectly better than studying for enhancing memory? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. doi: 10.3758/s13423-012-0276-0.
- Wissman, K.T., Rawson, K.A., & Pyc, M.A. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards? Memory. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2012.687052.