Why Are You Quizzing Me on What I Already Know?

Intela has a variety of evidence-based Microactivities that improve and sustain learning. One of the more popular activities is the Learning Sprint. A Learning Sprint is a flashcard-like exercise in which learners are required to answer questions from an item pool over a period of several days or weeks (exact scheduling can be set by the trainers). The goal in a Learning Sprint is to “retire” all the questions from the pool by answering them correctly multiple times in a row. The default is two but that can be increased at the discretion of the trainer.

From time to time we hear from a client that their learners are objecting to re-answering questions that they previously answered correctly.  Or, in other words: “I already answered this correctly. Why are you making me answer it again?”

It turns out that there are two evidence-based reasons for this strategy:

Reason 1: Repeatedly answering a question strengthens long-term memory.

In this experiment:


Repeated Retrieval Study

the authors demonstrated that repeated quizzing improved long-term retention and learners who took more quizzes outperformed those who took fewer quizzes.

Reason 2: Learners are poor judges of what they remember and, given the option, will stop studying before they have truly mastered the material.

 In this experiment:

Self-regulated learning study

learners studied an unfamiliar language using flashcards. The authors gave students the option to drop flashcards from their decks at any time. Here is when the students dropped cards:

Correct answers before drop

As we can see, more than 75% of students dropped cards after one or fewer correct responses. But in the final exam: “waiting to recall an item twice before dropping it increased final test performance by 26 percentage points compared to recalling it once, and 69 percentage points compared to not recalling it at all.”

So, learners might not like it, but requiring multiple correct responses in a Learning Sprint will benefit them in the long run.


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