CCK11 Testing and concept mapping

In this post on getting tested is better for studying than concept mapping:

Researchers this week have found that, for fact-based subjects, practising a retrieval exercise produces better test results than concept mapping.

Publishing in Science, the researchers claim that it’s both the act of recall and the act of reconstructing knowledge that are key for learning. But if you’re still a huge fanatic of concept mapping you could, of course, combine the two by creating a mind map from memory. So if you want to do well in exams, just make sure you test yourself!

Is learning an act of recall and reconstruction of knowledge, especially in Science?  This post on “Research finds practicing retrieval is best tool for learning” mentions that

The researchers showed retrieval practice was superior to elaborative studying in all comparisons.

“The final retention test was one of the most important features of our study, because we asked questions that tapped into meaningful learning,” said Karpicke.

I think this could be challenging for educators: on the notion of retrieval practice as a better way of learning.  Would this bring us back to the Mastery Learning as discussed here and here?

Mastery learning, which is based on retrieval practice could be very effective in classroom-based and self-paced learning.  Also it is aligned with the principles of learning with a content-based knowledge.  So, retention of knowledge could be enhanced by Mastery Learning.    But does it work equally well in a connectivist learning environment where knowledge is distributed, and most likely not a “thing” to be acquired (as proposed by Stephen in What Connectivism is not).  Here learners do not ‘acquire’ of ‘receive’ knowledge; learning is not a process of ‘transfer’ at all, much less a transfer than can be caused or created by a single identifiable donor.

What if learning involves reflective practice, which cannot be easily tested? There are science practices which are not only based on “factual information” but a process of critical thinking and reflection in the learning process.  What would be a more effective way to learn then?  Would it be a recall and reconstruction of knowledge? Or would it be using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs?


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