How testing help students learn
Testing is one of the tools that teachers can use to measure both their student’s knowledge and progress. One thing that is recurring when we run focus groups with teachers is that they would like to send short tests more frequently, but hesitate to do so simply because of time constraints. However, there are clear advantages to frequently quizzing your students. In this blog post I’m going to outline a few of these, as well as highlighting how you can save time with your testing as well.
Testing is the ultimate analytics tool
The first benefit is the obvious one. Testing identifies gaps in knowledge, which enables us to continually fine-tune and adapt lesson plans to the needs of students. However, testing should not be something done at the very end of a topic, but rather seen as an ongoing process. Testing is most effective when done several times throughout a topic to discover knowledge gaps early on so future instruction can be adjusted accordingly. The result is a more personalised experience for the students, because we are actively targeting their weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
There is however one caveat when it comes to frequent testing – It needs to be low pressure. Students should not feel like they are being judged, and should have the freedom to be wrong. The simple process of practicing their retrieval will later improve their results, which brings me to the second benefit.
Students should practice retrieval, not studying
There is a belief among students that learning material is done best by reading and rereading it again. Because of the focus you place on that process, you would then encode that information for later retrieval.
A research article published in 2006 looked into whether studying material was the superior method for long term memory. Students were reading 250-word prose passages in one of three conditions and were given a final test 5 minutes later and one week later.
- Condition 1: SSSS (s = studying)
- Condition 2: SSST (t = testing)
- Condition 3: STTT
The results show that condition 1 performed best when students were to recall things immediately, however condition 3 performed best after one week. The results clearly show that techniques that work short term may not work in the long term and students may be tricked by the idea of experiencing immediate results and thus preferring the study condition. This also explains why students who are able to delay gratification generally perform better, because they are able to wait to get the bigger reward.
Roediger & Karpicke (2006) present ten clear benefits from testing:
- Testing aids later retention
- Testing identifies gaps in knowledge
- Testing causes students to learn more from the next learning episode
- Testing produces better organization of knowledge
- Improves transfer of knowledge to new concepts
- Can facilitate retrieval of information that was not tested
- Improves metacognitive monitoring
- Prevents interference from prior material when learning new material
- Provides feedback to instructors
- Frequent testing encourages students to study
Why aren’t we testing students more often then?
Testing takes time. Selecting questions, creating tests, marking, compiling results, adjusting lesson plans, and continuously reassessing the students in this manner creates a huge workload on teachers and is very time consuming.
The traditional way
Here at Kognity, we focus on cutting down that workload by automating large parts of the process so that teachers can focus on adjusting their instruction according to student results. We believe that the benefits of actively making students retrieve information will help them in the long term.Because of this we have built a simple-to-use assignment function where the only input from teachers comes from selecting questions from our database. The rest, in terms of marking, compiling results and giving feedback on questions to students is completely automated, so teachers free up time for themselves.
If you are interested in finding out more about Kognity and the type of value it can bring to you and your school, get in touch with us here.
Author: Abigail Bryant
Abi is Head of Support at Kognity, where she works closely with teachers and students getting them set up and ensuring their experience with Kognity is a great one. Previously she worked as an English teacher working with International Schools in South East Asia.