Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom

Abstract

Test-enhanced learning refers to the fact that taking an initial test on studied material enhances its later retention relative to simply studying the material and then taking a final test. Most research on the testing effect has been done with materials such as word lists, and the general finding has been that the benefits of testing are greater when the initial test is a recall (production) test rather than a recognition test. We briefly summarize three experiments that extend these results to educationally relevant materials, namely brief articles, lectures, and materials in a college course. All three experiments demonstrated a robust testing effect and also revealed that an initial short-answer test produced greater gains on a final test than did an initial multiple-choice test. Furthermore, one experiment revealed a positive effect of immediate feedback given with the initial test. The educational implications are that production tests (short answer or essay) and feedback soon after learning increase learning and retention. In addition, frequent testing probably has the indirect positive effects of keeping students motivated and leading them to space out periods of study.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Mcdaniel.

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This research was sponsored by Institute of Education Sciences Grant R305H030339 and a Collaborative Activity Grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

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Mcdaniel, M.A., Roediger, H.L. & Mcdermott, K.B. Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14, 200–206 (2007). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194052

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Keywords

  • Retention Interval
  • Initial Test
  • Final Test
  • Testing Effect
  • Short Answer