Friday, November 22, 2013

Testing as a Way to Boost College Achievement

While parents and students throughout the country lament the constant testing of students in elementary and high schools, a new study has found that frequent testing of college students -- each day of class -- boosted achievement of all students, especially those from lower income backgrounds.

Robert S. Donovan
The findings, from a team of psychology professors at the University of Texas at Austin, were published in the online science journal PloS One. The professors were co-instructors of two large introductory psychology classes, with a total of over 900 students. They had taught the same course for several years and thus had data on student performance to compare to the classes in which they implemented the daily testing. Students were advised to bring their laptops to class and were given personalized online quizzes containing eight questions at the beginning of each class, one of which was a question that the student had gotten wrong on a prior quiz. Students could drop their lowest quiz grades and could take a limited number of quizzes outside class. The quizzes included material from both the course lectures and the assigned readings.

The professors found that the students in the classes subject to quizzing did better not just in the introductory psychology course, but in other courses that semester and in courses in subsequent semesters. There was also a significant reduction in the difference in performance between students of higher and lower socioeconomic standing, something that had been notable in prior sections of the course.

The professors noted that the improvements they observed "most plausibly reflect changes in students’ self-regulated learning – their ability to study and learn more effectively." They also noted that attendance was high in the classes where quizzes were given, which would also influence student performance. It stands to reason that when students attend class regularly and do the course reading, that they will learn more and that their performance on tests will be improved. No one likes testing, but it can help keep students -- at least college students -- on track for success.

No comments:

Post a Comment