Jun 052012

Distributed Practice: Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice

Distributed  Practice:  Available online 16 July 2011.

Distributed Practice:  Henry L. Roediger III, Adam L. Putnam, Megan A. Smith


Distributed Practice:  Testing in school is usually done for purposes of assessment, to assign students grades (from tests in classrooms) or rank them in terms of abilities (in standardized tests). Yet tests can serve other purposes in educational settings that greatly improve performance; this chapter reviews 10 other benefits of testing. Retrieval practice occurring during tests can greatly enhance retention of the retrieved information (relative to no testing or even to restudying). Furthermore, besides its durability, such repeated retrieval produces knowledge that can be retrieved flexibly and transferred to other situations. On open-ended assessments (such as essay tests), retrieval practice required by tests can help students organize information and form a coherent knowledge base. Retrieval of some information on a test can also lead to easier retrieval of related information, at least on delayed tests. Besides these direct effects of testing, there are also indirect effects that are quite positive. If students are quizzed frequently, they tend to study more and with more regularity. Quizzes also permit students to discover gaps in their knowledge and focus study efforts on difficult material; furthermore, when students study after taking a test, they learn more from the study episode than if they had not taken the test. Quizzing also enables better metacognitive monitoring for both students and teachers because it provides feedback as to how well learning is progressing. Greater learning would occur in educational settings if students used self-testing as a study strategy and were quizzed more frequently in class.


Washington University in St. Louis Memory Lab:



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