Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Krashen on testing

You Must Remember This
Published in the Chronicle of Higher Education
June 29, 2007
To the Editor:
Researchers quoted in "You Will Be Tested on This"
(The Chronicle, June 8) think that better retention
comes from repeated "effortful retrieval," and that
the best way to ensure this happens is with frequent
There is, however, a deeper generalization that is
consistent with testing research as well as other
research and observations: We retain facts and learn
concepts when they help us solve problems. Tests are a
crude way of doing this. More interesting, and
potentially more effective than frequent tests, are
projects that involve interesting problems to solve.
That is the way we continue to build our knowledge and
learn new concepts after we finish school.
One excellent way of integrating problem solving into
our classrooms is through writing. Several studies
confirm that writing about topics is an excellent way
of ensuring learning.
Frank Smith has pointed out that if a fact or idea is
important enough to us, only one exposure to it is
enough; no effortful retrieval, testing, or even
writing is needed. Most of us needed to hear only once
who was declared the winner of the 2000 presidential
election to remember it even years later. This insight
also explains why this poem is nonsense: "Do you love
me/Or do you not?/You told me once/But I forgot."
There will be no test on the contents of this letter.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus of Learning and Instruction
University of Southern California, Los Angeles


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