Test-enhanced learning in medical education
Article first published online: 15 SEP 2008
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2008
Volume 42, Issue 10, pages 959–966, October 2008
How to Cite
Larsen, D. P., Butler, A. C. and Roediger III, H. L. (2008), Test-enhanced learning in medical education. Medical Education, 42: 959–966. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03124.x
- Issue published online: 15 SEP 2008
- Article first published online: 15 SEP 2008
- Received 13 February 2008; editorial comments to authors 15 February 2008; accepted for publication 6 March 2008
- *education, medical;
- educational measurement/*methods;
- randomised controlled trial [publication type]
Context In education, tests are primarily used for assessment, thus permitting teachers to assess the efficacy of their curriculum and to assign grades. However, research in cognitive psychology has shown that tests can also directly affect learning by promoting better retention of information, a phenomenon known as the testing effect.
Cognitive psychology research Cognitive psychology laboratory studies show that repeated testing of information produces superior retention relative to repeated study, especially when testing is spaced out over time. Tests that require effortful retrieval of information, such as short-answer tests, promote better retention than tests that require recognition, such as multiple-choice tests. The mnemonic benefits of testing are further enhanced by feedback, which helps students to correct errors and confirm correct answers.
Application to medical education Medical educational research has focused extensively on assessment issues. Such assessment research permits the conclusion that clinical expertise is founded on a broad fund of knowledge and effective memory networks that allow easy access to that knowledge. Test-enhanced learning can potentially strengthen clinical knowledge that will lead to improved expertise.
Conclusions Tests should be given often and spaced out in time to promote better retention of information. Questions that require effortful recall produce the greatest gains in memory. Feedback is crucial to learning from tests. Test-enhanced learning may be an effective tool for medical educators to use in promoting retention of clinical knowledge.