This semester, I am TAing (teaching assistant-ing) a more interactive introduction to biology lab. While doing shorter, well-planned labs each week, we are also creating, planning, executing, and analysising our own semester long project. As TA, I am in charge of making sure things do not go terribly awry. Anyway, these week, I have been working on writing an assessment for the students over the introduction material and their ability to problem solve. I had never thought about how difficult it is to create a challenging and well-written test. As it turns out, it is quite difficult. All this thinking about the best way to test the students lead me to find and read an interesting new article about the best way to learn. Check it out in this week’s Science, “Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping.” Here is the scope:
The researchers took 200 college students and split them into 4 groups. The first group just read the article for 5 minutes. The second group read the passage in four consecutive five-minute sessions. The third created a ”concept map” where they used bubble and lines to connect main ideas and details of the passage. The final group took a “retrieval practice test” after reading the passage. A week later all the students took a short answer test about the passage. The students in group four, who took the “retrieval practice test” scored much higher than any other group on the short answer test. I am sure you saw that coming based on the title of the paper. It is still unknown why the retrieval was so beneficial. Something to keep in mind when you want someone to really learn something or if you are still a student, when you really want to learn something.