Friday, April 18, 2014

Learning through quizzing

This morning my son was eating toast with peanut butter as part of breakfast. I asked him, "What shape is this?" He didn't feel like answering. (It was a triangle.)

Have you ever noticed that we ask constantly questions like this to young children? What color is the car? What shape is a basketball? Where did we go yesterday? What is this vegetable? We ask questions, lots of questions. Why? To test them? To check their learning?

As it turns out, research shows that quizzing or testing is one of the most effective learning strategies. There has been a lot of analysis done, but here is a video summing it up. The most relevant discussion begins at 3:30 and the most pertinent comments start at 5:47.

This morning it dawned on me that we almost instinctively do this with our own children all the time. We review the alphabet or shapes or colors every few days as opportunities arise (distributed or spaced learning). We ask questions that require retrieval/recall (testing). We switch topics and activities (interleaving). Instinctively, we do this with children. What causes us as students and learners to so often abandon these strategies as we grow up?

Is it that we're lazy, so we don't want to make flashcards?

Is it that we want to  independent, so we don't want to work with others and quiz one another?

Is it that we're undisciplined, so we just want to wait until the night before?

Is it that we're ignorant, so we just do what others do?

Is it that teachers have taught us poor strategies?

I know I want to make sure my students know which strategies are more helpful. I want my students to know that how they study a crucial factor in learning. I need to help students develop effective study habits.

Follow me on Twitter @MatthewTShowman

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