March 06, 2008

To Test Or Not To Test...

Apparently, testing leads to greater recall of information. According to this article, studying and repeatedly testing on information allows students to retain information better than if they were only to constantly study.

As a teacher, I think this is useful information to know. I'm the type of teacher that particularly despises testing based on pure recall but to some degree this information does present some validity to giving 'pop quizzes'. While I tend to focus more on teaching for understanding while providing tests and assignments that promotes this, it may not be too bad to throw in a few more quizzes to assist with retention.

This is one of those dilemmas that many teachers face. Since testing for pure recall only shows us which students are better at remembering but not the best with understanding, there are always questions about how best to evaluate students. However, testing for understanding is not only time consuming - for both teachers and students - it's also very difficult to design the right question and accurately mark making it hard to sometimes get concrete feedback from it. Sometimes, pure recall testing is simpler and more concrete for assessment and assigning marks. Especially when the government requirements are asking for concrete results, simple testing is the answer, however, as I mentioned earlier this curves away from the goal of education; understanding. The magic formula is really a mixture of testing for understanding, simple testing and observations of experiential learning and projects.

While the article has pointed out the usefulness of simple testing, it doesn't mean teachers should put more emphasis on it. Rather, it may be more useful to provide more pop quizzes to assist students with information retention. However, at the same time teachers should give less weight to the results when it comes to students' final assessments. Ultimately, it gives us something to think about. Now if I could only remember what I was trying to accomplish before writing this post...

h/t to Saskboy

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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