Test-enhanced learning: knowledge is not information (part III)
Test-enhanced learning: knowledge is not information (part III)

Test-enhanced learning: knowledge is not information (part III)

Edperiment 1a down, 1b to go. You are familiar with the methodology. Uncommon word or diagnostic cue. You produce the target cue or definition. ‘Papist’ was an uncommon word, do you remember it’s meaning? According to research and the Twitter poll, this second diagnostic cue is less common. However, it is no longer context free (though I would say, discrete enough).

Edperiment 1b: Information (30:70 chance that it is known to the reader)

Remember to consider yourself invested. This task holds high value for you as a learner. Your teacher is word curious and you are too. Ready?

Cur (n)

Now, I’m impressed if you know the meaning of this diagnostic cue. That said, the diagnostic cuing value of a discrete and unknown word is almost – zero. It could as easily be a Swahili word (in fact it is the same in Swahili). Even knowing the title and context of the book, of the scene, the relationships between the characters, I had to look it up. I doubt offering you context or connection will assist you either? That said, let’s at least offer a hint or four.

HINT 1: In the book, “Black Powder,” cur refers to the protagonist’s father who is on the run?

“Black Powder” may trigger retrieval of “Gunpowder plot,”but still, even with this information the diagnosticity remains low.

HINT 2: “Cur” joins post “papist” as a phrase – “papist cur”? 

HINT 3: The villain of the scene states “I’ve got two papist curs to catch.”

Even with the context, without prior knowledge, this information would benefit from being taught. It has nothing to stick to? To schema to connect with.

HINT 4: Cue references “cur-tailed”, or short-haired – hence “cur.”

Maybe you have something now? Gunpowder plot, protagonists father on the run, a pejorative* or disapproving term for Roman Catholics.

Diagnostic cue (Vocabulary)Target cue (definition)Hint or note
Cur (n)A unkempt* mongrel inferior* dogShort-haired or “Cur-tailed”, or “cur.”

Again strikethrough is used to show words replaced in favour of more familiar words for learning

A ‘papist cur’ is a slur upon a slur. Why would you know that unless you were an avid Jacobean historian, dog breeder or cross word puzzle fanatic? Let’s compare that learning experience of encountering new information, with that of remembering/relearning/maintaining knowledge.

Edperiment 2: Knowledge to remember/relearn/maintain

Five more common words from a gunpowder plot semantic cluster. What I like to call ‘powerful language.’ Five diagnostic cues. Again, pairs as they would be designed for RememberMore (cue (word class) syllabification). Offer a definition, use or ignore the hint. After the task, follow the self-assessment mark scheme. See Why quiz? Effective quizzing part 2 for more detailed outline.

You are still invested. This task still holds high value for you as a learner.

Diagnostic cue (Vocabulary)Target cue (definition)Hint or note
Infiltrate (v) in·​fil·​trateSneak
Assassination (n) as·​sas·​si·​na·​tionMurder
Conspiracy (n) con·​spir·​a·​cyPlot
Treason (n) trea‧sonBetrayal
Insurrection (n) in‧sur‧rec‧tionUprising

Self-assessment for test-enhanced learning

  • 2/2 marks for a precise / exact answer – I find myself using the phrase “correct and accurate.”
  • 1/2 mark for a correct answer or partial answer – correct or complete or improve your response and highlights the corrections or additions made.
  • 0/2 if incorrect. Remember – there should be no missing answers. Pupils add the correct answer.

I accept that accurate marking takes practice however, it also offers logistical, pedagogical, metacognitive and affective benefits. Testing and self-assessment develops metacognitive monitoring and enhances metacognition accuracy (Rivers, 2021), directing more informed study decisions and contributing to positively affective classrooms. On average, ‘students who engaged in self-grading performed better on subsequent tests than did students who did not’ (Sanchez et al., 2017: 1049), as did students who peer-graded.

Spoiler – below are the word-definition pairs.

Diagnostic cue (Vocabulary)Target cue (definition)Hint or note
Infiltrate (v) in·​fil·​trateThe act of entering or penetrating a placeSneak
Assassination (n) as·​sas·​si·​na·​tionThe murder of a prominent personMurder
Conspiracy (n) con·​spir·​a·​cyA secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmfulPlot
Treason (n) trea‧sonBetrayal of one’s countryBetrayal
Insurrection (n) in‧sur‧rec‧tionAn organised uprising against an authorityUprising

Do you need to report your score? How do you feel about reporting your score? What was your score out of ten? How did you feel during that self-assessment process?

More importantly, did remembering/relearning/maintaining feel different to encoding/learning?

Which task was completed the fastest? Two flashcards from edperiment 1a and 1b or the five flashcards edperiment 2? I hedging my bets that five knowledge word-definition pairs were answer more efficiently than the two information word-definition pairs.

Knowledge is not information

In my attempt to recreate the experience of encoding/learning information and remembering/relearning/maintaining knowledge, I have tried to demonstrate that they are distinctly different. Therefore should be taught distinctly differently. How they should be taught is covered in more depth in the “practical guide part” of Test-Enhanced Learning: A practical guide to improving academic outcomes for all students.

Information is cognitively demanding, slow to be processed, confusing at times, frustratingly unreliable and severely impeded by the limitations of our working memory. On the plus side, we have added new meaning to ‘cur,’ (connected it with ‘papist’ in the context of the Gunpowder plot), and in doing so, modified, reconstructed and reorganised our knowledge of ‘papist.’ Knowledge begets knowledge. Has ‘cur’ moved to being stored semi-permanently in long-term memory? Unlikely. Although now attached to the stickier ‘papist’ and your Gunpowder plot schema. ‘Cur’ itself may not be that sticky. Both storage and retrieval strength remains, at this point, incredibly fragile. Retrieval practice, remembering and using will promote retention.

Knowledge on the other hand, think automaticity or fluency, can be cognitively demanding, however is processed quickly, is rewarding, and seems to almost bypass the limitations of our working memory. Both information and knowledge are distinctly different.

I am not sure this is the right turn of phrase however, how do we most effectively move information to being ‘relatively permanent,’ and accessible knowledge in long-term memory? Part IV looks at where test-enhanced learning can contribute to the solution, why successive relearning should be woven deeply into our curriculum clothe, focusing specifically on the ‘crucial interactions’ between working memory and long-term memory (Perry et al., 2021: 10).

On my terms (Part I)Information is not knowledge (Part II)Knowledge is not information (Part III)Successive Relearning (Part IV)
Perry, T., Lea, R., Jørgensen, C. R., Cordingley, P., Shapiro, K. and Youdell, D. (2021) Cognitive Science Approaches in the Classroom: A Review of the Evidence. London: Education Endowment Foundation. Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/evidence-reviews/cognitive-science-approaches-in-the-classroom.
Rivers, M. L. (2021) Metacognition about practice testing: a review of learners’ beliefs, monitoring, and control of test-enhanced learning. Educational Psychology Review, 33(3): 823–862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-020-09578-2
Sanchez, C. E., Atkinson, K. M., Koenka, A. C., Moshontz, H. and Cooper, H. (2017) Self-grading and peer-grading for formative and summative assessments in 3rd through 12th grade classrooms: a meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(8): 1049–1066. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000190


Black Powder (Ally Sherrick): A rip-roaring historical adventure and winner of the Young Quills Award.

Twitter survey used to test the use papist and cur.


  1. Pingback: Test-enhanced learning: On my terms (Part I) – Edventures

  2. Pingback: Test-enhanced learning: Information is not knowledge (Part II) – Edventures

  3. Pingback: Test-enhanced learning: Successive Relearning (part IV) – Edventures

Leave a Reply