Improve Instruction – Give a Quiz!

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The latest STANYS Newsletter (May/June 2011) offers some interesting conclusions on the effectiveness of frequent quizzing as a method of learning. DAL for Professional Development and high school chemistry teacher at Saratoga Springs High School, Tom Shiland, shares his success of frequent quizzing with the aid of clickers:

A U.S. Department of Education publication “Organizing instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning” calls the evidence strong for “using quizzes to re-expose students to key content”. 

“Frequent testing” is principle number 4 of “25 principles of learning” available at  ( on the University of Memphis website.   

Why does frequent quizzing work? One way to look at it is that the student is starting to build a well-worn path in their mind (a “neural pathway”) to retrieve the information. Thinking about quiz questions helps build these paths. The student is building and reinforcing a neural pathway to where the information is located in long-term memory.

He continues to give some examples of the benefits with his personal findings.

1)   Because I do not count the quizzes it removes the impression that the quizzes might be punitive. Instead the quizzes keep the focus on learning, instead of simply assigning a grade. It moves the focus away from teacher versus student to us versus what we need to know.

2)   The results of the quizzes help justify the direction the instruction takes to the class. “As you can see, we need to spend more time balancing redox equations.”

3)   The eventual chapter exam has no surprises. Daily quizzing has made the demands of the exam transparent to the learner.

4)   It moves the focus away from evaluating with a grade that we often take personally. Deemphasizing the grade, takes the focus off of an evaluation of the self, and focuses attention on the learning. (Shute, 2007). To help keep the focus off the student evaluating themselves, I will say “Let’s see how well Mr. Shiland taught today”.

5)   As a teacher, starting with the quiz in mind at the end of the class, keeps me focused on what is important during the lesson.

For more information, read the full article here.




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