People have talked a whole lot about testing over the years but now there is research backing up the good practice taking place in schools around the country.
I was reading a recent piece of research “Testing (Quizzing) Boosts Classroom Learning: A Systematic and Meta-Analytic Review” which had some really useful ideas I wanted to share.
One of the biggest revelations from cognitive science is that self-testing does not just assess learning, but that it also accelerates it. However, the researchers of this study noted that many studies “consistently showed that the majority of students administered self-tests to determine how well they had mastered studied information (68%), whereas only a minority (18%) acknowledged that testing facilitates learning”. Likewise, they also noted that other studies have found that the majority of teachers (68%) reported that “students should administer tests to figure out how well they have learned the information they are studying,” with only 19% reporting that “students will learn more through testing than rereading.”
To dig a bit deeper, they conducted one of the largest reviews of Retrieval Practice to date. Specifically, they investigated the magnitude, conditions, and psychological underpinnings of Retrieval Practice in the classroom. The researchers integrated 48,478 students’ data from 222 independent studies. As part of the review, they wanted to answer a number of questions.
Important Questions Answered
|Does classroom testing boost student attainment?||Yes. There is “strong evidence supporting the existence of test-enhanced learning in the classroom”.|
|Against what comparison treatments does quizzing enhance learning?||Against no/filler activity, testing with fewer questions,|
re-studying and other elaborative strategies.
|Does quiz format matter?||It generalises to different formats (i.e., multiple-choice|
tests, fill in the blank, short answers).
|Can knowledge tested in one format be retrieved to answer questions presented in other formats?||Yes, however larger benefits are associated with|
consistent formats compared to inconsistent ones.
|Does testing benefit untested knowledge?||“Testing significantly benefits untested knowledge, although|
to a smaller extent than that for tested knowledge.”
|Should corrective feedback be offered?||“Offering corrective feedback following class quizzes|
significantly increases learning.”
|Does the number of test repetitions matter||“There is a positive relationship between the number of test|
repetitions and the classroom testing effect, indicating that
the more occasions on which class content is quizzed, the
larger the learning gains.”
|Does test-enhanced learning work at all levels of education?||Evidence supports the benefit of test-enhanced learning|
for primary, secondary and university students.
|Does test-enhanced learning benefit males and females equally?||Yes. No discernible differences exist.|
|Does test-enhanced learning generalise to a range of subjects?||Yes. “Across 18 subject categories, testing consistently|
facilitates learning achievement.”
|Does testing benefit different levels of knowledge?||“Testing is not only beneficial for learning facts, but also|
promotes conceptual learning and facilitates knowledge
application in the service of problem solving.”
|Should tests be administered in or out of the classroom?||“Quizzes administered in the classroom tend to be more|
beneficial than those administered out of the classroom.”
|Should tests be administered pre- or post-class?||“Both pre- and post-class quizzes significantly enhance|
learning, but post-class quizzes are more effective.”
|How does the effectiveness of test-enhanced learning vary with treatment duration?||Test-enhanced learning is beneficial as a one-off, if done|
throughout a term or over the course of the year. “The
relationship between test-enhanced learning and treatment
duration is approximately linearly increasing.”
|Does stake level matter?||“There is no significant difference in testing benefits between|
high and low-stake quizzes.”
|Should students take class quizzes independently or collaboratively?||“Even though the results show that there is no significant|
difference in testing benefits between collaborative and
independent quizzes, no firm conclusion can be reached
at present because few studies have explored the
effectiveness of collaborative testing.”
Key Takeaways for Teaching
1. Use practice testing in lessons and for homework!
2. Use a range of formats to suit the material. For example, short answer questions may be used for retrieving factual knowledge, with more open questions or free recall tasks being used to retrieve more complex understanding.
3. Always give corrective feedback after students have completed the practice test. This may include getting automatically generated feedback from an online quiz, self-making, displaying correct answers, a class discussion or whole class verbal feedback.
4. Retrieval Practice of the same content should be repeated multiple times. It may be helpful to create a “Retrieval Practice curriculum” – where teachers identify the most important knowledge and skills for students to learn and develop and plan when they are going to retrieve this over the year, key stage, or course. This could move from factual to higher-order retrieval over time. It should also include plans to retrieve the same content in different formats, including transfer to unfamiliar problems and contexts.
5. It may be beneficial for the Retrieval Practice to take the same format as the final test questions. For example, through eventually using exam questions as Retrieval Practice.
“The results showed that testing was not only beneficial for learning factual knowledge but also promoted conceptual learning and
facilitated problem-solving. Hence, these results counter the view that testing only consolidates inert knowledge, it can also facilitate comprehension (i.e., knowledge organization and integration) and knowledge transfer to aid solving new problems in unfamiliar contexts.”
Yang, C., Luo, L., Vadillo, M. A., Yu, R., & Shanks, D. R.
(2021). Testing (Quizzing) Boosts Classroom Learning:
A Systematic and Meta-Analytic Review.
Case Study – Physics A Level
Physics students often find new concepts awfully hard, and they really struggle to get an “easy in” to any exam question. So often the best way to teach Physics is to use examples with answers together in class so they get comfortable with the concepts, content and formulae and you may give an example and work on it for some time.
The best way to then cement this in is either in that lesson or the next is to use a PPT slide format like this which I often print A5 size. Then I can project and use for same purposes. I then the class a few minutes on their own and slowly reveal the answers line by line to scaffold the slower pupils and support them to the next steps. Some are very quick and can do the basic then harder and move on, and you can dribble out the answers as required.
Multichoice Techniques… (some simple ideas)
Multichoice style is a huge part of AQA Papers with 25 marks per paper on MultiChoice. It is not easy, and some have some complex working. Too complex for even the best teachers to do quickly on the spot. The preparation is key, and they can be practiced many times over in class or at home like this. I usually do a few on whiteboards under timed conditions and also at the same time coach pupils how to answer. I think you really need to spend class time on this practice for them to get the best of things. I also usually aim or a good student to be on 21/25 and a weaker on around 15/25 to be successful overall.
- work out what type it is and what they want i.e. real maths, ratios, reasoning, just factual know
- try for a 50/50 initially and if in doubt have a guess after 2 mins (maybe come back) so put a “star” at the side
- write a formula down or proportional relation for an easy sub in
- try for a “quick solution” or rough one first it maybe close enough
- detail calcs is sometimes the only way. Double check your calculator
- if using a calculator don’t try and put it in all at once.