Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 307–329 | Cite as

Teaching to the Test…or Testing to Teach: Exams Requiring Higher Order Thinking Skills Encourage Greater Conceptual Understanding

  • Jamie L. Jensen
  • Mark A. McDaniel
  • Steven M. Woodard
  • Tyler A. Kummer
Research into Practice

Abstract

In order to test the effect of exam-question level on fostering student conceptual understanding, low-level and high-level quizzes and exams were administered in two sections of an introductory biology course. Each section was taught in a high-level inquiry based style but was assigned either low-level questions (memory oriented) on the quizzes and exams, or high-level questions (application, evaluation, and analysis) on the quizzes and exams for the entirety of the semester. A final exam consisting of 20 low-level and 21 high-level questions was given to both sections. We considered several theoretical perspectives based on testing effect, test expectancy, and transfer-appropriate processing literature as well as the theoretical underpinnings of Bloom’s taxonomy. Reasoning from these theoretical perspectives, we predicted that high-level exams would encourage not only deeper processing of the information by students in preparation for the exam but also better memory for the core information (learned in the service of preparing for high-level questions). Results confirmed this prediction, with students in the high-level exam condition demonstrating higher performance on both the low-level final-exam items and the high-level final exam items. This pattern suggests that students who are tested throughout the semester with high-level questions acquire deep conceptual understanding of the material and better memory for the course information, and lends support to the proposed hierarchical nature of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Keywords

Assessment Bloom’s taxonomy Biology Testing effect Test expectancy 

References

  1. AAAS. (2010). Vision and change: a call to action. Washington: AAAS.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, G. L., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., et al. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, H. S., Geer, B., & Hughes, E. C. (1968). Making the grade: The academic side of college life. New Brunswick: Transaction.Google Scholar
  4. Biggs, J. B. (1987). Student approaches to studying and learning. Hawthorn: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  5. Bjork, R. A., Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning: Beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 417–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bloom, B. S. (1984). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  7. Bybee, R. (1993). An instructional model for science education: Developing biological literacy. Colorado Springs: Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B. (2005). Biology, 7th ed. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings.Google Scholar
  9. Carpenter, S. K. (2012). Testing enhances the transfer of learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(5), 279–283. doi:10.1177/0963721412452728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carpenter, S. K., & DeLosh, E. L. (2006). Impoverished cue support enhances subsequent retention: Support for the elaborative retrieval explanation of the testing effect. Memory & Cognition, 34(2), 268–276. doi:10.3758/Bf03193405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carpenter, S. K., & Pashler, H. (2007). Testing beyond words: Using tests to enhance visuospatial map learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(3), 474–478. doi:10.3758/Bf03194092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carpenter, S. K., Pashier, H., Wixted, J. T., & Vul, E. (2008). The effects of tests on learning and forgetting. Memory & Cognition, 36(2), 438–448. doi:10.3758/Mc.36.2.438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carpenter, S. K., Pashler, H., & Cepeda, N. J. (2009). Using tests to enhance 8th grade students’ retention of US history facts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(6), 760–771. doi:10.1002/Acp.1507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carrier, M., & Pashler, H. (1992). The influence of retrieval on retention. Memory & Cognition, 20(6), 633–642. doi:10.3758/Bf03202713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chan, J. C. K., & McDermott, K. B. (2007). The testing effect in recognition memory: A dual process account. [Reports - Evaluative]. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(2), 431–437.Google Scholar
  16. Crowe, A., Dirks, C., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2008). Biology in bloom: Implementing Bloom’s Taxonomy to enhance student learning in biology. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 7, 368–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dickie, L. O. (2003). Approach to learning, the cognitive demands of assessment, and achievement in physics. [Reports - Research]. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 33(1), 87–111.Google Scholar
  18. Finley, J. R., & Benjamin, A. S. (2012). Adaptive and qualitative changes in encoding strategy with experience: Evidence from the test-expectancy paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, 38(3), 632–652. doi:10.1037/A0026215.Google Scholar
  19. Fisher, R. P., & Craik, F. I. M. (1977). Interaction between encoding and retrieval operations in cued recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory. 3(6), 710–711.Google Scholar
  20. Harlen, W., & Deakin Crick, R. (2002). A systematic review of the impact of summative assessment and tests on students’ motivation for learning (EPPI-Centre Review, version 1.1*). Research Evidence in Education Library (Vol. 1). London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  21. Hill, P. W., & Mcgaw, B. (1981). Testing the simplex assumption underlying Blooms Taxonomy. American Educational Research Journal, 18(1), 93–101. doi:10.3102/00028312018001093.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, C. I., & Mayer, R. E. (2009). A testing effect with multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 621–629. doi:10.1037/A0015183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Joughin, G. (2010). The hidden curriculum revisited: A critical review of research into the influence of summative assessment on learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), 335–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kang, S. H. K., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2007). Test format and corrective feedback modulate the effect of testing on memory retention. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 528–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kropp, R. P., et al., & Florida State Univ. Tallahassee. Inst. of Human Learning. (1966). The construction and validation of tests of the cognitive processes as described in the “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives”. (pp. 444).Google Scholar
  27. Lawson, A. E. (1978). The development and validation of a classroom test of formal reasoning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 15(1), 11–24.Google Scholar
  28. Lawson, A. E. (2002). Science teaching and development of thinking. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.Google Scholar
  29. Lawson, A. E., Alkhoury, S., Benford, R. B. C., & Falconer, K. A. (2000a). What kinds of scientific concepts exist? Concept construction and intellectual development in college biology. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 996–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lawson, A. E., Alkhoury, S., Benford, R., Clark, B. R., & Falconer, K. A. (2000b). What kinds of scientific concepts exist? Concept construction and intellectual development in college biology. [Reports - Research]. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 996–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lawson, A. E., Clark, B., Cramer-Meldrum, E., Falconer, K. A., Sequist, J. M., & Kwon, Y.-J. (2000c). Development of scientific reasoning in college biology: Do two levels of general hypothesis-testing skills exist? [Reports - Research]. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(1), 81–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Madaus, G. F. (1973). A causal model analysis of Bloom’s Taxonomy. American Educational Research Journal, 10(4), 253–262.Google Scholar
  33. Mayer, R. E. (2003). Learning and instruction. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. 10(4), 253–262.Google Scholar
  34. McDaniel, M. A., & Donnelly, C. M. (1996). Learning with analogy and elaborative interrogation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(3), 508–519. doi:10.1037//0022-0663.88.3.508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McDaniel, M. A., Blischak, D. M., & Challis, B. (1994). The effects of test expectancy on processing and memory of prose. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 19, 230–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McDaniel, M. A., Anderson, J. L., Derbish, M. H., & Morrisette, N. (2007). Testing the testing effect in the classroom. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19(4-5), 494–513. doi:10.1080/09541440701326154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McDaniel, M. A., Wildman, K. M., & Anderson, J. L. (2012). Using quizzes to enhance summative-assessment performance in a web-based class: An experimental study. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 18–26.Google Scholar
  38. McDaniel, M. A., Friedman, A., & Bourne, L. E., Jr. (1978). Remembering the levels of information in words. Memory & Cognition, 6, 156-164.Google Scholar
  39. McDaniel, M. A., Thomas, R. C., Agarwal, P. K., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2013). Quizzing in middle school science: Successful transfer performance on classroom exams. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27, 360–372.Google Scholar
  40. McDermott, K. B., Agarwal, P. K., D’Antonio, L., Roediger, H. L., III, & McDaniel, M. A. (in press). Both multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes enhance later exam performance in middle and high school classes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, C. M. L., & Parlett, M. (1974). Up to the mark: A study of the examination game. London: Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  42. Momsen, J. L., Long, T. M., Wyse, S. A., & Ebert-May, D. (2010). Just the facts? Introductory undergraduate biology courses focus on low-level cognitive skills. [Reports - Evaluative]. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 9(4), 435–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Momsen, J. L., Offerdahl, E., Kryjevskaia, M., Montplaisir, L., Anderson, E., & Grosz, N. (2013). Using assessments to investigate and compare the nature of learning in undergraduate science courses. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 12, 239–249.Google Scholar
  44. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington: National Academy.Google Scholar
  45. Roediger, H. L., III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Roediger, H. L., III, Agarwal, P. K., McDaniel, M. A., & McDermott, K. B. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in the classroom: Long-term improvements from quizzing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17, 382–395.Google Scholar
  47. Rohrer, D., Taylor, K., & Sholar, B. (2010). Tests enhance the transfer of learning. [Reports - Research]. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(1), 233–239.Google Scholar
  48. Seddon, G. M. (1978). The Properties of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive Domain. Review of Educational Research, r.Google Scholar
  49. Snyder, G. (1951). The hidden curriculum. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  50. Sternberg, R. J., Grigorenko, E. L., & Zhang, L. (2008). Styles of learning and thinking matter in instruction and assessment. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 486–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Struyven, K., Dochy, F., & Janssens, S. (2005). Students’ perceptions about evaluation and assessment in higher education: A review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30(4), 325–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thiede, K. W., Wiley, J., & Griffing, T. D. (2011). Test expectancy affects metacomprehension accuracy. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 264–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomas, A. K., & McDaniel, M. A. (2007). The negative cascade of incongruent generative study-test processing in memory and metacomprehension. Memory & Cognition, 35(4), 668–678. doi:10.3758/Bf03193305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Etten, S., Pressley, M., McInerney, D. M., & Liem, A. D. (2008). College senior’s theory of their academic motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 812–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wiggins, G., McTighe, J., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Alexandria VA. (1998). Understanding by Design. (pp. 214): Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311–1714 (stock number 198199, members:.Google Scholar
  56. Zawicki, P., & Witas, H. W. (2007). HIV-1 protecting CCR5-D32 allele in medieval Poland. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 8(2): 146-151.Google Scholar
  57. Zoller, U. (1993). Are lecture and learning compatible? Maybe for LOCS: unlikely for HOCS (SYM). Journal of Chemical Education 70: 195–197.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamie L. Jensen
    • 1
  • Mark A. McDaniel
    • 2
  • Steven M. Woodard
    • 1
  • Tyler A. Kummer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations