Wondering how to upgrade your child's performance in school, quizzing your younger one over study material might help. According to a new-meta analysis, the students who are quizzed over class material at least once a week tend to perform better on the midterm and final exams compared to students who did not take quizzes.
The researchers found in addition to frequency, immediate feedback from instructors also seemed to positively impact student performance. About a year ago, a conversation during a faculty meeting piqued Marcus Crede's interest. A senior faculty member in Iowa State University's Department of Psychology said that he believed frequent quizzes help students better grasp classroom material. Crede, an associate professor of psychology, was skeptical that something as simple as a quiz could positively impact students' academic performance. He decided to dig deeper and conduct a meta-analytic study of existing research to see if there was any merit to the claim. What he discovered truly surprised him.
"I have a long history of trying to understand the variables that contribute to learning and performance in the classroom," Crede said. "For me, this study is part of a larger effort to understand what works and what doesn't work. It turned out to be a much more interesting paper than I thought it was going to be. I was surprised."
The study's results are detailed in the paper, "Regarding Class Quizzes: A Meta-analytic Synthesis of Studies on the Relationship Between Frequent Low-stakes Testing and Class Performance," published last month in the journal ‘Educational Psychology Review’.
Crede teamed up with psychology graduate student Lukas Sotola, who took the lead on much of the research. They analysed data from previously published studies that examined 52 classes with almost 8,000 students, primarily college-level courses, to determine if frequent quizzes improved the students' academic performance. Laboratory settings were excluded from the study because Crede and Sotola wanted to observe whether similar studies from labs would apply to general classrooms. They defined quizzes as low-stakes assessments of learned material that occurred at least once a week.
Crede emphasises that this study did not involve true experiments, where some students were randomly assigned quiz conditions and others were not.
"As soon as we don't have random assignments, we can't be 100 per cent certain that the difference is really done to the quizzes. It could be something else."
Nevertheless, the results suggest there may be a strong link between frequent quizzing and student success.
Crede and Sotola discovered that when students are quizzed over class material at least once a week, they tend to perform better on the midterm and final exams compared to students who did not take quizzes. They also found that students who took frequent quizzes were less likely to fail the class, especially if they were struggling with the course content.
"I was surprised the effect of quizzes was relatively strong," Crede said. "I was sceptical. I didn't think this would have much of an effect. The other surprising thing was how much quizzes helped reduce failure rates in classes. The odds of passing a class went through the roof where instructors used this."
Even if quizzes only modestly impact students' ability to pass a class, Sotola said this tool should be part of an instructor's teaching curriculum.
"A modest effect can have a large impact over the course of many years," Sotola said. "If quizzes improve performance and lead to even a slightly lower percentage of students failing their classes, then that will presumably have positive effects on graduation and drop-out rates down the road, which will save students and institutions time and money."
Crede noted that students who struggle the most in a class seem to benefit the greatest from frequent quizzes. This is a profound finding, he said, especially since implementing short quizzes into the course curriculum is a relatively simple task.
"In many universities, including Iowa State, there's often concern about drop-out rates and failure rates, and so the fact that we can apparently do so much with so little effort is really encouraging for us," Crede said.