Parents Students

Home Study at Nova: Why do we set so much quizzing?

It will not escape your notice that a large proportion of your child’s home study involves them writing quizzes (or the answers to quizzes that have been given to them) and testing themselves on quizzes they’ve written before. This article is to reassure you that this is a good idea!

People will always debate the desired outcomes of compulsory education but I’m sure all will agree that we want young people to learn the skills that equip them for further academic study, training and careers. However, perhaps counterintuitively, the best way to develop skills is not to simply practice skills without a clear context. Decades of research in learning psychology and cognitive science have shown that skills are never without a clear context: you cannot demonstrate skills without knowing things first. The best problem-solvers are those with the best knowledge of the problem.

Another example: imagination. Developing a good imagination might be one goal for education. It is no coincidence that those with the best imaginations are those who have read the most books or seen the most art. This is because coming up with ideas (demonstrating imagination) requires knowledge first. Another way of putting it is: to think well, you need knowledge to think about.

Therefore, although the long-term aims for education are, rightly, to develop sophisticated academic skills, this cannot be done without first mastering large amounts of knowledge. This is why there is so much quizzing.

Memorising powerful knowledge (the key facts, definitions and concepts) in each subject gives students the necessary mental structures to do difficult things with that knowledge (including coming up with original ideas!). The research in learning psychology and cognitive science shows us something else: among the very best way to memorise knowledge is to be tested on it. Reading it over and over is less effective; making notes on it is less effective; attempting research on a topic is far less effective … so we set the effective method for home study. The effort of trying to recall knowledge, using the humble quiz, and checking if you knew the answer, is incredibly simple but incredibly powerful.

So we make no apology for favouring quizzing in home study, because it really works!




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