Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, January 31, 2011

Testing is Learning

This is actually an update from a post I wrote earlier in the year. The journal Science has recently reported a new study that proves that people learn best by being tested. Compared to creating concept maps, repeated studying, and reading, students who were tested on material knew the material better than students who employed other techniques.  

This is scientific confirmation of what many in ASP have been preaching to our students for a while...take practice tests. The disappointing implication from this study is that law students aren't learning if testing is what creates real learning. The sole summative assessment that comprises most of the testing or assessment in most classes in law school isn't going to do much for learning. Science has already demonstrated that feedback is critical to improvement, and summative assessments don't have a lot of that, either.

The implications for ASP...keep doing what most of us are already doing. Give our students lots of practice tests, and give them feedback on those practice tests. Develop or borrow assessments that test material in increments, so students don't have to wait at least half the semester to know enough to take an old exam from their professor.

This is further confirmation of the prescience of Ingrid Michelsen Hillinger of BC Law and Rory D. Bahadur of Washburn, both of who presented at AALS on how to give formative assessments to students without increasing the grading burden. Not only were their presentations fascinating, but they shared valuable lessons on how to help our students succeed, without crushing numbers of exams. While ASP classes as a whole tend to be smaller in size than doctrinal classes, if you have a large student body, their lessons on group projects and peer assessment are valuable tools. (RCF)

For more information on the study:

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test
Published: January 20, 2011
Test-taking actually helps people learn, and it works better than repeated studying, according to new research.

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