Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Several legal education scholars have advocated frequent formative feedback as a way to increase learning in law school classrooms. Now, a comprehensive study, discussed in the New York Times, supports this method to enhance learning.
The article begins, "Grading college students on quizzes given at the beginning of every class, rather than on midterms or a final exam, increases both attendance and overall performance, scientists reported Wednesday. The findings — from an experiment in which 901 students in a popular introduction to psychology course at the University of Texas took their laptops to class and were quizzed online — demonstrate that the computers can act as an aid to teaching, not just a distraction."
The article continues, "[T]he study is the latest to show how tests can be used to enhance learning as well as measure it. The report, appearing in the journal PLoS One, found that this 'testing effect' was particularly strong in students from lower-income households. . . . This is the first large study to show that classroom quizzing can help reduce achievement gaps due to socioeconomic background."
"In the past decade, they have shown that taking a test — say, writing down all you can remember from a studied prose passage — can deepen the memory of that passage better than further study. . . . By forcing the students to stay current in the reading and pay attention in class, the quizzes also taught them a fundamental lesson about how to study."
"By the end of the course, however, the class had outperformed a previous Psych 301 class of 935 students that used midterm exams — scoring 10 percent higher on a subset of 17 questions that appeared on both classes’ tests."
The quizzes also improved attendance: "In the middle of the semester, attendance usually averages about 60 percent, Dr. Pennebaker said, adding: “In this quiz class it was 90 percent. If you know you’ve got a quiz, you have to show up.”