Teaching for linear exams

The movement from modular assessment and coursework towards high stakes terminal exams provides both challenges and opportunities for teaching.

One area of helpful research is the growing literature on how we can use the principles of cognitive psychology to improve our teaching. There’s a great summary – simple and applicable – produced by Deans for Impact:


The APA (American Psychological Association) has just released a special edition and series of videos on applying cognitive principles to teaching:

Psychology teacher network: Sept 2015

The second short article (p7) caught my interest and might be useful for the ‘Teaching for linear exams’ group. There are a set of YouTube videos where Dr David Chew:


They cover a good range of topics:

  • Video 1: Beliefs About Teaching
  • Video 2: The Cognitive Challenges of Teaching: Mindset, Metacognition, and Trust
  • Video 3: The Cognitive Challenges of Teaching: Prior Knowledge, Misconceptions, Ineffective Learning Strategies, and Transfer
  • Video 4: The Cognitive Challenges of Teaching: Constraints of Selective Attention, Mental Effort, and Working Memory
  • Video 5: Teachable Moments, Formative Assessment, and Conceptual Change

Another area of research looks at the effectiveness of student study skills. There’s a great review of these by Dunlosky et al (2013):

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology

A shorter, less technical summary is available from the AFT:

Strengthening the Student Toolbox: Study Strategies to Boost Learning

There’s a review of some of the research into memory improvement by Schwartz et al (2011) here:

Four Principles of Memory Improvement: A Guide to Improving Learning Efficiency

Some ideas about how to exploit the benefits of distributed practice are explored in the AFT article by Dan Willingham:

Allocating Student Study Time: “Massed” versus “Distributed” Practice

Finally, I’ve been writing various summaries and discussion pieces looking at how teachers might exploit psychological research to help their students: Psychology for teachers


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