Testing can be for Learning: The retrieval Effect

Tests get high marks as a learning tool by  Anne Mciloy — Science Reporter for the Globe and Mail

This article reports on a testing effect – testing students improves their learning.  It’s also called a retrieval effect and can be achieved in other activities that demand recall.  I would say it is also active learning in that students are using information in a different type of activity (answering a test questions as opposed to the original task such as listening to a lecture or reading a book. ) (The article claims the same effect for a good pedagogical activity where students pair off after reading a book or passage to summarize the reading and then to to criticize the summary and exchanging roles for the next reading)

Note – This supports the validity for testing, but it does not justify the validity of using testing for other purposes.  Most testing is for rating, ranking, segmenting student into groups or planning instruction.  The fact that testing is a good learning activity doesn’t justify its use for these other purposes which should be judged for their own purposes.  Testing should be use as a way for achieving success for students, not a way to rate their final success.  I saw this effect in my daughter’s schooling.  She learned through testing activities and often had decent command of the content after a test was completed, but the grade and often her identity was already assigned.  This identity is not about empty self-esteem.  Identity is deeper and more important than self-esteem.