Scientists have known for years that being “tested” on what we’ve been learning boosts long-term memory. Many studies show that people who test themselves remember information better compared to people who spend the same amount of time simply “learning things”. It goes without saying that learning and testing must go hand-in-hand, if we want to experience lasting growth.
What are the implications for our students, especially when they get to high school? Could disciplined study skills (e.g., task completion, regular review, and a commitment to test preparation) be important after all? Or is it simply sufficient to attend class, complete some assignments, and coast along?
When you are in Middle School and bombarded by the growing distractions of social media, popular culture, and technology, it can be hard to see the real benefit of regular study routines and testing. And it can be a shocker to discover that there’s no App for that! As our grandparents have told us over the generations – there is no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work. And, like it or not, testing remains an important part of this overall effort.
The value of testing lies in its ability to integrate learning with an ability to demonstrate learning. In higher education, the test or exam is still a significant tool that provides students with the opportunity to do just that.
How can students learn to prepare themselves for positive test-taking experiences? By adopting the approach known as the “6Ps”. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. In order to demonstrate learning in a testing situation, the most successful students spend time preparing and refuse the sucker’s choices of “flying by the seat of their pants” or “cramming” to the point of craziness.
While the end game of all learning is not always related to test performance, a student who’s serious about academic opportunity will have to come to terms with the “testing effect” sooner or later. This effect shows that trying to retrieve something you’ve learned – that feeling of racking your brain in order to apply a word or a concept – helps you commit learning to memory. When it’s integrated into long-term memory, it becomes galvanized as core knowledge and ultimately becomes a possession. Something you “own” that is now part of you. Something you can now demonstrate to others with confidence and joy in a myriad of ways.
The process of good old-fashioned learning can be a bit like “feeling the burn” in the gym – sort of like how the sensation of a muscle being intensely exercised lets you know that you are making progress.
The brain is like a muscle that should feel good when it is being used!
Ric Anderson, Head of School