Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A brief interlude...

Before I finish the third post in my series on criticisms of SBG I wanted to share an article from SciAm. I'm unwilling to pay $11.95 for one article so I'm going to have to take Scientific American's word for it on what the research actually says. The gist is that if people tried and failed to retrieve information first, they recalled it better in the end. Here's the money quote:

People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning.

At the very least this seems to argue in favor of pre-tests and guiding questions. Where does this fit in SBG?

The way I structure my class is twice-weekly quizzes. It seems like a lot but I like for students to have pretty up to date information on how they're doing. It also allows me to change gears mid-week. The quiz (I actually call them progress checks) usually covers every standard they need to learn for that topic. If it's a packed topic, they'll get every standard at least once a week. They can see where they are and what they still need to learn. There's a nice practice effect as well. In SBG all that matters is where they finish so the students aren't penalized because they continually fail the quizzes. I've struggled a little with this because I worry that they're reinforcing wrong ideas in the beginning. The SciAm article even mentions that worry.

In SBG, all those quizzes don't hurt the student's grade because all that matters is where they finish. If I graded them traditionally I wouldn't be able to give all those quizzes because it'd be unfair to the student's grades if I kept quizzing them on things I hadn't even taught yet.

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