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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Quizzes and tests are essential factors in assessing the knowledge and competence a student on a specific set of material. While it makes logical sense that a larger pool of quizzes would give a more accurate representation of the student’s comprehension, does there reach a point where the number of quizzes, specifically weekly quizzes, become a detriment to the student’s learning capability. Moreover, research demonstrated by B.W. Tuchman demonstrated that quizzes not only improve the student’s abilities but actually hold an even higher importance than “definition-based homework assignments” (Research paper). Through the readings of Robert Bjork and Bransford et al., there is a disconnect on their opinions over this matter. While Bjork outlines that such repetition of quizzing causes a student to fall into a state of massed practice and effectively gives one an illusion of competence, Bransford argues the opposite by stating that such repetitive drill and practice yields positive results in the long-term. By analyzing the positive nature of Bransford’s “drill and practice” through the results of the experimentation conducted by Kurt A. Haberyan, we see the importance that weekly quizzes play over the student’s final examination grade which is significant because higher grades equate to greater competence among students.

Through the reading of Bjork and Bransford we can see a drastic difference on their options of the outcomes stemming from weekly testing. Bjork interprets the effects stemming from weekly quizzing play a greater negative role on the performance a student has in the long term, while Bransford disagrees with such notion as citing that interpreting these results would allow the student to identify the discontinuities one has within their works. This difference of opinion is worth a consideration as this topic greatly effects the competence a student has over the material presented within a course.

Berry 1

Repetitive Practice

Practice, within the realm of academics, is the active process of learning and studying a set of material in order to master it. Similar to sports, this practice of academics is what directly effects one’s performance on a final test — in this case, a cumulative examination. While this process may seem straightforward, Bjork and Bransford disagree on the procedure by which students follow that best prepares them for such test. In this discussion, we will look at a specific type of practice — weekly quizzing.

Weekly quizzing, as a form of practice, is the dividing of a course’s material into evenly weighted weekly segments and then testing the student at the conclusion of each week over that specific set of taught material. By doing this, a teacher can gauge the understanding that each student has over the given material, and thus can relay back the information to the student in order to identify the deficiencies. While this process appears to be simple, Bjork complicates this issue by illustrating that such results may be an inaccurate representation of the student’s actual competence, and instead, it illustrates the students’s retrieval strength — the ability for a student to recall information based solely on recent memory. (Bjork) On the other hand, if these results indicate a much lower score than desired, a process called “latent learning” (Bjork) may be to blame. In his research, Bjork studied an experiment that dealt with this specific matter. These results indicate that while there may be a significant amounts of learning taking place, an animal, or human in this case, may not yield the desired performance immediately. The reasoning behind these shortcomings of performance is the theory of massed practice, an issue that Bjork infers would be utilized in the basis of weekly quizzing. An example of mass practice in this scenario is when a student would attempt to cram all of the information of the material a short period before

Berry 2 taking this quiz, therefore, again, utilizing retrieval strength.

Though Bjork introduces an argument discussing the illusions of competence related to feedback, his basis does not directly correlate to quizzing. While a student may rely on using retrieval strength to answer the questions presented, this is not the intended nature of the quiz. The intended nature would be for a student to study a section of each week’s material on each day, so by the end of the week, the time devoted would be more evenly spaced, which in turn would increase the capability of storage strength. Therefore, the theory of latent learning would be diminished as mass practice is transformed to spaced practice.

Bransford counters also counters Bjork by illustrating the importance of “drill and practice”. Drill and practice, in this sense, is the repetitive nature of learning a set of material and then testing your knowledge based off of your preparation. The importance behind this is the necessity of mastering the given material before moving forward to a more complex issue. In this event, if a student prepares throughout the week, takes the quiz, and performs poorly, it is a good indicator that the student is not ready to move forward. Following this, a student would assess his disconnect and address the matter before moving forward and not realizing his error in judgement. This would avoid the issue of a student perpetually missing complex issues due to simpler mistakes.

Interpreting the Results

The necessity of assessing this practice not only gives the student a representation of how well they learned the material, but even more, their efficiency in preparation. While interpreting the results may seem to benefit the student, a psychological effect may take place to counteract

Berry 3 this benefit.

The implications of “continuous feedback”() are drawn through Bjork’s assessment. He stated that while feedback might be helpful, “ reducing the frequency of feedback during training can enhance long-term posttraining retention”(Bjork). This kind of feedback only benefitted the short-term performance while effectively hindering the long-term performance. Bransford agrees with this notion to a certain extent. While he agrees that certain types of feedback, such as those specific to memorization, do not benefit the student, he offers the importance for an alternate type of feedback — feedback expressing the competence of the student. This feedback would benefit the student in a number of ways. It would not only express their understanding of the topic, but it would also enlighten the student on the implications of what they learn, which in turn will allow the student to build on previous knowledge.

The interpretations of the results also have another type of psychological effect — motivation. Such, if a student receives a high score on a test in which they devoted a significant amount of time to, he would be positively motivated to continue such work. On the other hand, if a student devotes a significant amount of time to a test and performs poorly, what does that do to his motivation and drive moving forward? While Bransford argues that “people work hard for intrinsic reasons”, it can be flipped that people also will give up if the task proves to be out of reach.

Data Analysis

So what does scientific experimentation say about this? Does Bjork’s idea that weekly quizzing negatively effects students have any solid platform, or instead does Bransford’s

Berry 4 argument hold true? Based on results from the research of Kurt A. Haberyan, his article, Do Weekly Quizzes Improve Student Performance on General Biology Exams?, illustrates the results.

In this experiment, Haberyan used his college-level general biology lecture and conducted the experiment by observing the final three of four exam averages between two classes — one that took weekly quizzes and another that did not. In order to minimize uncertainty, Haberyan used the first of four exams as a baseline for the average grade between class, as the experimental group had not yet begun their weekly quizzing. ()

The results from the experiment were conclusive. The group that partook in weekly quizzes performed, on average, 4% better than their non-quizzed counterparts. Even though the percentage improvement is relatively low, this slight improvement is still a valid cause in promoting the idea of providing a weekly quiz. An explanation for why the improvement was lower than expected is due to the concurrent lab course which also offers weekly quizzes. These quizzes are worth a larger percentage of the student’s final grade, and therefore may take precedence over the lecture quizzes. Therefore, as Bransford predicted, motivation does play a large role in the student’s success on subsequent quizzing and examination. ()

Proposed Solution

Based off of the results from Haberyan’s experiment, the proposed idea that weekly quizzing aids in long-term examination performance is confirmed. While this 4% increase is a positive margin, there is still great potential for improvement for this figure. The way to increase this number would be to introduce a new style of quiz.

Initially, the idea was that the quizzes would be given at the conclusion of each week and would pertain to the lectures through the former part of the week. Each quiz would follow the

Berry 5 same standard format that held the length, time allotment, and difficulty in constant. The only variable would be the material presented. Furthermore, the quiz, while factored into the final course average, was relatively low as well. This quiz style showed insignificant improvement on the student’s final examination grade.

The new quiz style would improve the only variable given in the initial quiz style — the material presented. Since the student was aware of the exact material that would be presented on each quiz, all one had to do would be to cram the small amount of material the night before and regurgitate the facts the following day, therefore promoting Bjork’s idea of massed practice. Following this quiz, the student would then move forward to the next set of material and effectively forget the prior set of material. A way to combat this issue would be to make each quiz a culmination of each prior week’s material. For instance, the third week’s quiz would not only contain material from week three, but also incorporate material from week one and two, effectively diminishing the idea of “…Thorndike’s original “law of disuse…”(). Instead, these quizzes would encourage the student to expand their storage storage strength, and master each section of material. Furthermore, by increasing the impact of these quizzes on the student’s final course average, a greater importance and priority would be given to the material each week. By the end of each term, the student will be far more proficient within the course, and therefore will preform at their best on the final examination.

Drawing Conclusions

Weekly quizzing has proven to be an beneficial aspect of practice within the course of academics. Bjork introduces the theory that massed practice, which may be used in studying for these weekly quizzes, is the downfall for a student’s long term retention, while Bransford

Berry 6 counters this complex using different logic. Though Bjork’s work is still valid, in this scenario, it does not apply to the theory of weekly quizzing affecting long-term performance. Now that the the benefit of feedback from short-term practice to long term practice is directly correlated, this theory can be broadened to various other facets. Such, if feedback in the office setting is offered  in short term increments to the employees, would this have a similar positive effect on the worker’s performance in the long-term? The benefits of such improvements would have drastic effects on various aspects of society, and, in turn, would raise the standard of living.

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