As training professionals, don’t you just love it when an influential resource, like the Wall Street Journal, for example, publishes the results of a topic where we knew the outcome all along? Let me quote the article, and then we can discuss it further.
“Online learning is booming. Now researchers have found a way to get students to pay more attention, take more notes, and retain more of what’s presented: testing. When students were tested, between segments of the lecture, their minds wandered less, and they retained more. More research is needed to see if similar short tests might have the same effect in a classroom setting.”
I think we would agree that no further research is needed, because we already know the answer. You see, I look at testing as just another form of learner involvement and engagement. One of the most powerful, yet simple, concepts I learned at Langevin, is that we should present information (lecture) 1/3 of the time, and have the learners involved, engaged (tested) for the other 2/3 of the time; designing tests is a key step in the instructional design process.
I also remember a mentor who shared with me one of his favorite quotations that is so meaningful that I still share it with as many people as I can today. “Never do for the learners what they can do for themselves.” Stop for a moment and process what that means to you, as a training professional. The more the learner is active and involved in learning, which should involve creative testing, the more they will retain what’s presented.
Notice I slid the word creative in there, because I conduct all types of creative knowledge checks, games, and review exercises, which could all be classified as a test. So, keep doing what you always knew worked, and I will close with another quotation from that same mentor for your enjoyment, “Expect from your learners what you had them do in the classroom or online program.” Check out our Instructional Design for New Designers workshop for more great ways to making learning more efffective!