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Can Taking Tests Make Us Smarter?

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Originally posted on August 26, 2014.

In a recent New York Times essay (here), Henry Roediger explains the insights gleaned from his research on “the testing effect”— the enhanced memory that follows actively retrieving information, rather than simply rereading it. Psychologists sometimes also refer to this phenomenon as “test-enhanced learning,” or as the “retrieval practice effect” (because the benefits derive from the greater rehearsal of information when self-testing rather than rereading).

As Roediger explains, “used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.”

For students and teachers, I offer a 5-minute animated explanation of the testing effect and how to apply it in one’s own study.  (I intend this for a class presentation or viewing assignment in the first week of a course.) See Make Things Memorable!  How to Study and Learn More Effectively.

About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).