Improving Student Learning–and Confidence!–with Retrieval Practice

As we move past the middle of the semester, exams and other big-ticket assessment items are likely on the radar screen for our students. This means, of course, that test anxiety and other underminers are also on students’ mental radar screens, and they can cause unintended difficulties as the higher-stakes, more summative assignments begin to intensify. How many of our students, after doing poorly on an exam, have said something like “I thought I was ready for the test, but once you passed it out, I just got so nervous I couldn’t remember what I studied?” This type of anxiety, where nervousness interferes with cognition, is a real and constant problem for some of our students. For others, it is a more sporadic, but just as difficult, phenomenon. Either way, though, it’s worth thinking about ways in which we might be able to help students mitigate this anxiety and allow for their work to accurately show us what they’ve really learned.
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