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Idea For February 2015

Let Your Students Run the Class

One of my colleagues was recently hit with a bad cold that left her without a voice. For a variety of reasons, cancelling class was not an option, but neither was speaking. Instead, she turned the class over to the students. She set the class agenda, assigned students to groups, and had the groups present and discuss that day's material to their classmates. A week later, one of her students volunteered that the student-run class had been one of the best in a course taught by an excellent and passionate teacher. This is not surprising; research shows that the more students are actively engaged during a class, the better their learning.

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Article For January 2015

Mary A. Pyc, et al., Test-enhanced Learning, Applying Science of Learning in Education (2014).

The authors of Test-enhanced Learning (Mary A. Pyc, Pooja K. Agarwal & Henry l. Roediger, III) give testing a good name. Summarizing the results of empirical research studies, they show that "[p]ractice tests have been shown to improve long-term retention across the lifespan . . . and have been documented using a wide range of materials and experimental designs . . ." (citations omitted). While many of have seen the value of giving students multiple opportunities to practice and get feedback on their learning, this chapter goes further, noting the scientific results of different testing approaches across a range of disciplines. Consider some of their points.

Test-enhanced Learning suggests a number of ways to incorporate low-stakes practice testing in the classroom. Among other techniques, the authors recommend asking all students take a minute to write down a response to a question, using clickers, and giving frequent short quizzes. Moreover, the research suggests that intentionally employing cumulative practice tests will help our students' long-term learning. When students have to repeatedly review and practice material, not just the material most recently taught and which is easiest to recall and apply, their learning is more likely to last beyond the final exam.

Test-enhanced Learning is a chapter in Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum (Victor A. Benassi, Catherine E. Overson & Christopher M. Hakal, eds. 2014; begins page 78).

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