Timing of Quizzes During Learning: Effects on Motivation and Retention

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Abstract

This article investigates how the timing of quizzes given during learning impacts retention of studied material. We investigated the hypothesis that interspersing quizzes among study blocks increases student engagement, thus improving learning. Participants learned 8 artificial facts about each of 8 plant categories, with the categories blocked during learning. Quizzes about 4 of the 8 facts from each category occurred either immediately after studying the facts for that category (standard) or after studying the facts from all 8 categories (postponed). In Experiment 1, participants were given tests shortly after learning and several days later, including both the initially quizzed and unquizzed facts. Test performance was better in the standard than in the postponed condition, especially for categories learned later in the sequence. This result held even for the facts not quizzed during learning, suggesting that the advantage cannot be due to any direct testing effects. Instead the results support the hypothesis that interrupting learning with quiz questions is beneficial because it can enhance learner engagement. Experiment 2 provided further support for this hypothesis, based on participants’ retrospective ratings of their task engagement during the learning phase. These findings have practical implications for when to introduce quizzes in the classroom.

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