Tip #590: Why Multiple Quizzes Help Learning Retention

“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.” Francis Bacon

“Retrieval practice” or the “testing effect” involves testing yourself on an idea or concept to help you remember it. According to Roddy Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis who runs the university’s Memory Lab: “The actual act of retrieving the information over and over, that’s what makes it retrievable when you need it.”

As early as 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote that ‘exercise in repeatedly recalling a thing strengthens the memory.” So this is hardly a new concept. However, according to Roediger, the focus of recent learning and memory studies has been how to acquire knowledge rather than how to retrieve it.

Mark McDaniel, Roediger’s colleague, believes that every time a memory is retrieved, it becomes connected to new sensations and contexts. “The more things you have it connected to, the easier it is to pull it out, because you have lots of different ideas that can lead you to that particular material.”

In Tip#575 we discussed that during 40 years of research, Dr. Henry Roediger of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri has found that “it is possible to signal the brain that a particular piece of information is important and that it should retain it.”

Roediger determined that that “if you provide the learners with a series of retrieval opportunities, known as boosters, in the hours and days after training, you will cause the learner’s brain to regard information as important and retain it.”

A booster can be anything (such as a quiz) that requires learners to retrieve information from long-term memory. And once the learner has recalled the information, that will reset the learner’s forgetting curve! A series of boosters will continually reset the forgetting curve, maximizing long-term retrieval.

So, the more quizzes, the better! And the best part about this is that the more the learners come up with the quiz questions, the better their learning retention!

There is a wonderful quiz activity, called “Grab the Koosh,” where the participants create questions about the learning content and assign points (from 1 to 10) for each question. They quiz each other, using the honor system to keep score. The participants love it because it feeds into their competitive natures and I love it because I don’t have to do anything.

I have included a “Checking for Retention” quiz, either in multiple choice or fill in the blanks formats, in every learning program that I design.

How nice to know that these quizzes not only check learning, but aid in future learning retrieval.

May your learning be sweet.


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