Become a better test taker with Brainjogging

Teachers give their students tests in order to evaluate the students’ understanding of the presented material, but Kent State University researchers Dr. Katherine Rawson and Mary Pyc studied whether or not taking tests might also boost retention.  Rawson and Pyc believe test taking does, in fact, facilitate enhanced retention and retrieval of information (Science Daily).Rawson states, “Taking practice tests – particularly ones that involve attempting to recall something from memory – can drastically increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to remember that information again later.”

Rawson and Pyc published the article “Why Testing Improves Memory: Mediator Effectiveness Hypothesis,” which indicates that one of the many reasons that testing enhances one’s memory is that testing promotes the development of more effective encoding strategies.  Brainjogging often encourages students to develop encoding strategies, especially for vocabulary words.

Rawson’s illustration is as follows:

“Suppose you were trying to learn foreign language vocabulary.  In our research, we typically use Swahili-English word pairs, such as ‘wingu – cloud.’ To learn this item, you could just repeat it over adn over to yourself each time you studied it, but it turns ou that’s not a particularly effective strategy for committing something to memory.  A more effective strategy is to develop a keyword that connects the foreign language word with the English word.  ‘Wingu’ sounds like ‘wing,’ birds have wings and fly in the ‘clouds.'”

Rawson admits that this encoding method is as good as the keywords, also called “mediators,” one develops, but good keywords lead to significant retention.  Brainjogging often takes vocabulary words and, rather than connecting them to other words, illustrates the words or comes up with short stories to help students remember words’ meaning.  The more involved the student in creating this picture or story, the more likely he or she is to remember the picture’s relationship to the appropriate word.  Again, these pictures and stories are only as good as one makes them, but their ability to increase children’s understanding and retention of words is exciting in that it facilitates learning.   Perhaps more significantly, these strategies are enormously helpful for students with learning disabilities, especially ones with visual strengths.

Rawson and Pyc showed that “practice tests lead learners to develop better keywords.”  Students tend to develop more effective mediators for information on which they know they will be tested, rather than those they are merely studying for the sake of reviewing information.


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