Interim, low-stakes testing is not just an assessment tool but also facilitates the learning of new material, finds new research in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
Researchers Hee Seung Lee and Dahwi Ahn of Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, conducted four experiments involving 187 undergraduate students to determine whether testing on previously studied material facilitated both recall and the learning of new material. For each experiment, the students studied the general patterns of a series of paintings by various artists.
In the first experiment, a group of students selected at random were then tested on an initial set of paintings, while the rest were not. All of the students then studied a second set of unfamiliar paintings and everyone was tested on the second set. The second experiment following the same structure with one change: After studying the second set of paintings, all the students were tested on both sets of paintings.
The researchers found that participants who were tested on the first set of paintings identified two times more paintings correctly in the second set than those students who didn’t take an interim test. In the second experiment, the students who took the interim test identified three times more paintings correctly than their fellow students in the comprehensive test, showing that the interim test both improved knowledge recall and enhanced their ability to learn new material.
Interim testing generated more learning than the restudying activity that was conducted in the third and fourth experiments. In the final two experiments, the students were divided into three groups: one that took the interim test, one that took no test and one that restudied the first group of paintings before studying and being tested on the second group of paintings.
While the students who had the chance to restudy scored higher than the students who received no opportunity to review the material, the group that received the interim test did the best of all.
Researchers believe that interim testing helps with the learning process because it results in additional exposure to the material, lets students determine how difficult it is to learn the kind of material they’re studying, and gives them the chance to evaluate their earlier studying strategies and adjust them to improve test performance.