Friday, January 28, 2011

Purdue Study: Self Testing is Key to Learning

A Student of the University of British Columbi...Image via Wikipedia
The time students invest in rereading or reviewing their notes would be better spent practicing retrieval to ensure better learning, according to new research from Purdue University. "We continue to show that practicing retrieval, or testing yourself, is a powerful, robust tool for learning," said Jeffrey D. Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies learning and memory. "Our new research shows that practicing retrieval is an even more effective strategy than engaging in elaborative studying. Educators, researchers, and students are often focused on getting things 'in memory,' so techniques that encourage students to elaborate on the material are often popular. But learning is fundamentally about retrieving, and our research shows that practicing retrieval while you study is crucial to learning. Self-testing enriches and improves the learning process, and there needs to be more focus on using retrieval as a learning strategy."

In two studies, a total of 200 students studied texts on topics from different science disciplines. One group engaged in elaborative studying by creating concept maps - diagrams that illustrate the complicated connections and relationships in the material. The second group read the texts and then practiced retrieval; these students put the material away and practiced recalling the concepts from the text. The students returned to the lab a week later for the actual assessment of long-term learning. The group that studied by practicing retrieval showed a 50 percent improvement in long-term retention scores above and beyond the group that studied by creating concept maps. The students also were asked to predict which technique -- practicing retrieval or elaborative studying -- would be best for their long-term learning. While the majority thought that elaborative studying with concept mapping would be best, the students actually learned more by practicing retrieval.

Karpicke's future studies include evaluating how concept mapping can be used as part of the retrieval process, as well as other effective self-testing practices for students. More information is available at

Summary found in the TCEB Newsletter:

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1 comment:

  1. This has definitely been my experience. In high school and college, I could usually get by in most classes just by having a general understanding of the material. In chiropractic school (Don't go! but that's another story.) and studying for Board Exams, there was a large quantity of information that just had to me memorized. I struggled until I hit on the technique of putting all my notes in question and answer format. My wife would quiz me until I could answer every question correctly.


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