Does practice really make perfect?
As children develop and improve their cognitive abilities, they are expected to become less reliant on supervised learning and develop self-learning skills. Although there are some self-learning tools taught within education-psychology textbooks, educators are not always given the evidence to show which of these tools work most effectively. A 2013 comprehensive review of 10 learning techniques that students could implement on their own was conducted by a group of educational and neuroscience psychologists. The outcome of this review was that ‘Practice Testing’ was the most effective learning technique that students could use to retain information.
Practice Testing is the process of recalling key information that has recently been learnt by students. This can take the form of problem based questions, multiple-choice questions, flashcard tests etc., which should be done on an ongoing and informal basis. Encouraging regular information recall through informal testing, creates multiple new synaptic pathways to develop within the brain, in which the information can be transferred into and recalled from the long-term memory.
This ‘low-stakes’ form of testing allows students to understand what material needs to be restudied and if specific concepts need further explanations. When the correct answer is given as student feedback, the chances of pervasive errors being recalled reduces, but the students ability to recall the information learnt significantly increases versus practice testing without provision of the correct answers.
It is clear from the research that the more traditional forms of teaching, whereby students are given a technique to be mastered followed by the testing of their understanding of that technique, is the most effective way for children to be educated, both in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. Presenting children with these skills early on, and helping them to understand that regular practice helps them to remember the information when it comes to sitting an exam, will encourage those students who are motivated to improve their overall scores.
Testing does improve learning and practice does make perfect.