You are on page 1of 6

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan

Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

Technology Action Research Plan


Frequent Low-Stakes Testing to Improve Learning Outcomes
Section 1
Introduction
The testing effect is a notion that has been around for centuries. In essence, this
notion says that the act of testing someone strengthens their ability to recall knowledge.
Interestingly, this holds true regardless of whether feedback is provided. Current
literature suggests that including more frequent low-stakes quizzing in an academic
setting is a more effective tool for learning than simply re-reading or going over
material presented in a class. (Carey, 2014)
While the testing effect is not a new idea, technology's increasing capacity to
facilitate frequent low-stakes quizzes is. In decades prior, the arrival of the Scan-Tron
made short, multiple choice quizzes easier to execute. Today, improved and widespread
technology has given teachers the ability to test quickly, and even on the fly, with the
added benefit of almost instantaneous feedback for the student.
This study is focused on determining how K-12 teachers can best harness the power
of the testing effect through frequent, low-stakes quizzes using an ever expanding
arsenal of technological tools in their own classroom.

Area of Focus Statement


The purpose of this study is to determine the best methods for increasing student
learning through frequent, low-stakes quizzing with educational technology.

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan


Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

Research Questions
1. How will incorporating more low-stakes quizzes into my classroom affect my teaching
and the ability of my students to learn?
2. How will incorporating frequent low-stakes quizzes help students assess their own
learning and retain the information being learned?
3. How can frequent low-stakes quizzes help students achieve a higher taxonomic level of
learning (eg, analysis over simple recall)?
4. How can technology be utilized to perform frequent low-stakes quizzes and/or provide
immediate results/feedback?

Review of Related Literature


In a 2006 study, Roediger and Karpicke found that learning environments using
formative assessment had a dramatic downward slope of correct answers during the
first week. Data also showed that in later summative assessments, students who were
initially tested one or two days after a presentation recalled more information than
students initially tested seven to twenty-one days later.
In a later publication, Make it Stick, Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel expand on their
research stating that the use of retrieval strategies to recall information is a potent tool
for learning and durable retention. The brain learns better when it has to work at
retrieval. The mental act of retrieving information makes the learning stick better
Closely related is the idea that Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more
durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied
settings. (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan


Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

Benedict Carey, a science reporter for the New York Times, published a book titled
How We Learn which concurs with the conclusions of Roediger and his colleagues.
Carey explains that testing is a method of retrieval practice, which positively correlates
to strengthening long-term memory and learning in general. Conversely, testing slows
down the process of forgetting (Carey, 2014).
Traditional cumulative exams measure the content and complexity of information a
student has memorized, but not the learners competency or the transfer of learned
knowledge into real world situations (Jaffee, 2012). Retrieval practice as a learning
strategy creates flexible memory which engenders complex thinking and application
skills as well as facilitates organization of knowledge (Agarwai, Roediger, McDaniel, &
McDermott, 2013).
Frequency plays a part in effective learning. In a study of Distributive Practice in
Verbal Recall Tasks, Cepeda and his colleagues found that in more than 80% of studies
learners benefit from distributive practice. This phenomena is known as the spacing
effect. (Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006). Dan Willingham references it in
his article for Educational Leadership. He cites a specific study of eighth graders in
which frequent low-stakes quizzing resulted in 13-25% higher grades on end of unit
tests. (Willingham, 2014).
Applying retrieval practice with technology is an emerging discipline. The e-Learning
Council advances the use of practiced testing and spaced repetition. Revunote is an
Android app that works with Evernote. Revunote encourages you to recall information

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan


Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

before you check with Evernote. Revunote promotes a variety of recall strategies
including keywords, frameworks, mnemonics and linking.

Description of the Intervention or Innovation


In order to assess the testing effect in the classroom, three classes (teaching the
same material) will be used. One will be the control; this class will assess traditionally
with occasional quizzes and end-of-unit assessments. The second class will be using
frequent quizzing with the use of no/low technology. The last class will use frequent
quizzing with a high use of technology. At the end of each unit, students from each class
will be given the same end-of-unit assessment.

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan


Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

References
Agarwai, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M., McDermott, K. (2013) How to Use Retrieval
Practices to Improve Learning. Retrieved from:
http://psych.wustl.edu/memory/Roddy%20article%20PDF
%27s/RetrievalPracticeGuide.pdf
Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014). Make it Stick: The Science of
Successful Learning. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press.
Roediger, H. & Karpicke, J. (2006) "The Power of Testing Memory, Basic Research and
Implications for Educational Practice", Perspectives on Psychological Science
Vol. 1, No. 3
Carey, B. (2014). How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why it
Happens. New York, NY: Random House.
Cepeda, N., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J., & Rohrer, D. (2006) Distributed Practice in
Verbal Recall T
asks: A Review and Quantitative Synthesis Psychological Bulletin Vol. 132, No.
3, 354380 Retrieved from:
http://uweb.cas.usf.edu/~drohrer/pdfs/Cepeda_et_al_2006PsychBull.pdf
Jafee, D. (2015) "Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams." The Chronicle of Higher
Education. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Stop-Telling-Students-toStudy/131622/

ISLT_9417 | Summer Semester 2015 | Technology Action Research Plan


Barrow, Hanavan, Vonder Bruegge, & Winkler

Willingham, D. (2014). "Strategies That Make Learning Last". Educational Leadership.


Volume 72. Number 2. Retrieved from:
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educationalleadership/oct14/vol72/num02/Strategies-That-Make-Learning-Last.aspx