An article published last week in Scientific American suggests that students learn more when they are challenged to make mistakes. Written by cognitive psychologists Henry L. Roediger III of Washington University in St. Louis and Bridgid Finn of Columbia University in New York City, the article describes a series of studies testing students’ recall of information. The experiments, which were conducted by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that students remembered more when first asked to answer questions that they weren’t likely to get right. Before reading a text on vision, for example, students might be asked, “What is total color blindness caused by brain damage called?”
The authors said students might remember more of what they read in their textbooks if they try to answer the questions at the end of the chapter first.
A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2009 edition of Education Week as Cognitive Science