The Best Way to Teach

Benedict Carey’s recent New York Times article, “Studying for the Test by Taking It,” correctly asserts that students perform better when they are quizzed more frequently and pools together several rather conclusive studies to support this claim. Yet, many high school teachers and college professors adhere to a traditional grading model in which the majority (if not all) of a student’s grade is based on a final exam. I’ve often wondered why teachers have steadfastly supported this grading schedule. Is it because it is easier for teachers to calculate grades? Do teachers want to give students the most time possible to absorb the material?

Whatever the reason may be, delaying assessments to the end of a course is now being acknowledged as a rather inefficient and unproductive way for students to learn subject matter. That is why I applaud two University of Texas psychology professors, James W. Pennebaker and Samuel D. Gosling, for recently deciding to forego a final exam in their class of 900 students for a more rigorous daily quiz schedule. They found that, though this new schedule required a lot more work on their part, their intro psychology class performed significantly better than other psych classes that used a final exam. I urge teachers to follow this model and structure the courses around a frequent quiz schedule. I think the students just may thank them for it in the long run.

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