Why quiz at the start of the new academic year or unit (Part I)
Why quiz at the start of the new academic year or unit (Part I)

Why quiz at the start of the new academic year or unit (Part I)

Part 1 in a two part series, supports my conversation with Seb @tripitaka74. Seb Venture Teachers Talk Radio. This post is being shared ahead of the show where we are planning to discuss both the benefits and practicalities (deployment) of quizzing in the classroom at the start of a new academic year. Available as a podcast here (I join the conversation from 30-70mins).

First – why quiz at the start of the new academic year or unit?

Quiz (test) – that is pre-testing (test potentiated learning) and post-testing #retrievalpractice. Where retrieval practice is considered “using a variety of strategies to recall information from memory, for example flash cards, practice tests or quizzing, or mind-mapping.”

The benefits of quizzing to learning are well documented: Adesope et al, (2017) 0.61; Agarwal et al, (2021); Moreira et al, (2019); d=0.56, Rowland (2014) g – 0.50; Schwieren et al, (2017); d=0.42, Sotola & Crede, (2021); g=0.50, Yang et al (2021). The key point to note here is that quizzing is employed for learning, rather than as a terminal assessment.

Testing is not only an assessment of learning but also an assessment for learning.

Yang et al, (2021).

Accepted, the majority of studies come from laboratory settings (223 vs 30 in classrooms according to the meta-analysis from Adesope et al, 2017) however, as Prof Rob Coe, summarises, the effect sizes are similar in both (0.62 for lab studies vs 0.67 for classroom).

Why quiz?

So in addition to the direct learning benefits, there are also a whole host of indirect learner and teacher benefits too.

Better evidence leads to better decisions, leads to better learning.

Prof Dylan Wiliams

11 Reasons to quiz?

For a short answer, it is hard to beat Roediger et al, (2011) Ten benefits of testing and their applications to educational practice. The more I research this “quizzing” research, the better this summary gets.

  1. The testing effect: Retrieval Aids Later Retention
  2. Testing Identifies Gaps in Knowledge
  3. Testing Causes Students to Learn More from the Next Study Episode
  4. Testing Produces Better Organization of Knowledge
  5. Testing Improves Transfer of Knowledge to New Context
  6. Testing can Facilitate Retrieval of Material That was not Tested
  7. Testing Improves Metacognitive Monitoring
  8. Testing Prevents Interference from Prior Material when Learning New Material
  9. Testing Provides Feedback to Instructors
  10. Frequent Testing Encourages Students to Study

It is possible to argue that at the start of the academic year, or a new unit, that the diagnostic benefits of quizzing offer greater value to the teacher. than the learner (points 2 and 3) however there is an immediate investment in subsequent lessons (points 3, 5 and 8) also.

Expanding on Number 10, numerous educators are advocating for, and actively promoting, the benefits of classroom routines.

Of course, quizzing lends itself to being turned into a procedure, routine and adopted as a norm. Great for lesson starts and exits, but also at any point in a lesson. Quizzing lends itself so readily as it directs focus, simple instructions, requires pupils to think and can be easily framed by a time constraint if you so choose.

Additional benefits

In addition to the benefits of routines that Peps’s raises, “Redeploy attention → Reduce behaviour management → Increase student motivation, confidence and safety → Free up of teacher mental capacity to monitor learning and be more responsive,” let’s take a closer look at the benefits of quizzing. In part 2 we will revisit Peps final point of “free[ing] up teachers mental capacity,” it is also picked up in the podcast.

Schrank (2016) found that class quizzes increase attendance; Heiner, Banet, and Wieman (2014) reported that a preannounced quiz encourages students to read the assigned textbook material and prepare better before class; Yang et al, (2017) showed that frequent tests drive learners to allocate more time to learning; Szpunar et al, (2013) observed that learners make more notes when they are frequently tested; Jing et al, (2016) and Pan et al, (2020) found that frequent tests reduce task-unrelated thoughts (i.e., mind wandering) while watching lecture videos; and Weinstein et al, (2014) found that frequent tests induce high test expectancy which in turn boosts test performance. 

Which begs the question – how does one “effectively use quizzing.” In part 2 we will look at the three steps of effective quizzing for and as learning. Later this evening on Teachers Talk Radio we will hopefully get the chance to discuss point 3 – deployment of quizzing in your classroom. Thanks for the invite Seb @tripitaka74.

  1. Define the knowledge (breadth and weight, distribution and sequence of knowledge) – deck definition
  2. Design the questions / flashcards, categories and tags – deck design
  3. Deploy (routines)
    • Breadth and weight
    • Failure rates
    • Use of feedback – corrective and elaborative interrogation
    • Self-assessment and metacognitive monitoring
    • Quiz expectancy

EEF Evidence Review (July 2021) – Cognitive Science Approaches in the Classroom

Roediger, H. L. III, Putnam, A. L., & Smith, M. A. (2011). Ten benefits of testing and their applications to educational practice. In J. P. Mestre & B. H. Ross (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Cognition in education (pp. 1–36). Elsevier Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-387691-1.00001-6

Heiner, C. E., Banet, A. I., & Wieman, C. (2014). Preparing students for class: How to get 80% of students reading the textbook before class.American Journal of Physics, 82, 989 –996. http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1 .4895008

Jing, Helen & Szpunar, Karl & Schacter, Daniel. (2016). Interpolated Testing Influences Focused Attention and Improves Integration of Information During a Video-Recorded Lecture. Journal of experimental psychology. Applied. 22. 10.1037/xap0000087.

Pan, S. C., Schmitt, A. G., Bjork, E. L., & Sana, F. (2020). Pretesting reduces mind wandering and enhances learning during online lectures. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 9(4), 542–554. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2020.07.004

Yang, C., Potts, R., & Shanks, D. R. (2017). The forward testing effect on self-regulated study time allocation and metamemory monitoring. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 23, 263–277. http://dx.doi .org/10.1037/xap0000122

Weinstein, Y., Gilmore, A. W., Szpunar, K. K., & McDermott, K. B. (2014). The role of test expectancy in the build-up of proactive interference in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(4), 1039.


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