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Can frequent tests boost learning?



Bengaluru: There is an argument that repeated school assessments enhance anxiety among children and obstruct learning. Critics say that schools have turned classrooms as tests to test the memory power of the students. There are also arguments that frequent tests kill the interest of the students in the learning process. It also leads to various issues like pressure on the students, anxiety, learning difficulties etc. But contrary to all these arguments and the beliefs, research in cognitive science and psychology says that taking tests can improve recalling ability and deeper understanding of the subjects among the school kids. These research outcome must be used by the schools and the teachers to design the classroom activities.

 According to a section of parents, students and the academicians, frequent testing would raise instructional effectiveness and encourage students to study and review more often. Through conducting frequent tests teachers can correct student errors, students can be rewarded for their performance and students can realise that where they are lagging behind and what they are expected to learn.

 However, conducting an optimal amount of testing for the student has become a matter of controversy. People who advocate testing argue that more frequent testing increase instructional effectiveness and encourage students to study and review more frequently. These advocates also argue that added testing would provide opportunities for teachers to correct student errors, to appreciate and reward good performance given by the student, and it makes students, teachers, and parents understand of what they were expected to learn. Students can introspect about their performance. Moreover repeated questions would bring great improvement on examination scores.

 But on the other hand, few education experts argue that greater emphasis on class tests will divert students attention towards securing highest marks in tests than learning.  Experts express their fear that gradually students may lose their interest towards learning and students may feel tests as boring.

 Here there are a few pieces of research which have been conducted on the issue of frequenting tests and its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s see what they advocate…

Turney, A. H. (1931) conducted a study on `The effect of frequent short objective tests upon the achievement of college students in educational psychology’ and Kulp, D H  (1933) studied on `Weekly tests for graduate students? School and Society’.  In their study, Kulp and Turney divided students into two groups based on their performance in an examination. Additional weekly tests were assigned to the group which performed poorly on the examination in addition to regular examinations.  The second group which performed well in the examinations faced only the regular examinations. At the end of the course both the two groups performed equally well on the final examination. Additional tests and improvement in scores can be noticed in this study.

 Another group of scientists like Bostow, Laws, Blumenfeld, and Hopkins (1971) stated that students who attended frequent tests studied more consistently than the students who were appeared for less number of tests. Few early researchers were looking for great benefits from classroom testing, but on the other hand, few complained about possible negative effects from too much testing.

 Rickards (1979) showed that dividing texts into small units with "test-like events" improves student achievement. In their study, Kulik & Kulik (1986-87) has shown that mastery testing, when used as a diagnostic tool and followed with remedial help, also improves classroom learning. The students are encouraged to review a subject before a test. Sometimes the review may even be led by the teacher. These ordinary classroom tests contribute to the student's academic record. A researcher Ourhen compared tested groups with groups who faced no tests, the tested groups scored about one half standard deviation higher on a criterion examination than did the untested students.

 After observing all these research results it can be concluded that increasing the frequency of tests may be a way of creating a more positive academic atmosphere in the classroom.

 According to Ramadevi Achar, a Bengaluru based teacher need of the hour is a balancing act. "There is a lot of difference between the pressurizing the students to learn and encouraging them to learn. In top schools of the state, examination result of their students is often considered as the benchmark for quality education offered in their institute. They publicise the achievements of the students for various reasons. Parents and students must take a decision before joining any school or institute to decide what really they want in an institute," she said.


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