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Memory. 2012;20(8):899-906. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2012.708757. Epub 2012 Aug 15.

Memorial consequences of testing school-aged children.

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Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0086, USA.


A large literature shows that retrieval practice is a powerful tool for enhancing learning and memory in undergraduates (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a). Much less work has examined the memorial consequences of testing school-aged children. Our focus is on multiple-choice tests, which are potentially problematic since they minimise retrieval practice and also expose students to errors (the multiple-choice lures). To examine this issue, second graders took a multiple-choice general knowledge test (e.g., What country did the Pilgrims come from: England, Germany, Ireland, or Spain?) and later answered a series of short answer questions, some of which corresponded to questions on the earlier multiple-choice test. Without feedback, the benefits of prior testing outweighed the costs for easy questions. However, for hard questions, the large increase in multiple-choice lure answers on the final test meant that the cost of prior testing outweighed the benefits when no feedback was provided. This negative testing effect was eliminated when children received immediate feedback (consisting of the correct answer) after each multiple-choice selection. Implications for educational practice are discussed.

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