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Joan Phaup HeadshotPosted by Joan Phaup
Each year at the Questionmark Users Conference we like to include at least one breakout session relating to cognitive learning research – and 2013 is no exception.
John Kleeman, Questionmark’s founder and chairman, takes a special interest in learning research and has been focusing lately on the role feedback plays in improving the value of quizzes and tests.
John will lead a best practices session when we meet in Baltimore March 3 – 6, on Assessment Feedback – What Can We Learn from Psychology Research?
I spent a few minutes asking John about his presentation.

John Kleeman portrait
John Kleeman

What research have you been following on the effects of feedback on learning and retention?
My main role is as chairman of Questionmark, but I keep an active eye on relevant research, and I follow a number of researchers who are looking into how learning and retention work – and I’m particularly interested in how assessments fit into that. For example, I’ve been following Professor Roddy Roediger at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri and several of his colleagues across the U.S.
(Click here to read one of John’s interviews with Professor Roediger.)
What would you say are the key findings from this research?
What we kind of know but don’t always put into practice is that we forget a surprising amount of what we learn. People know about the forgetting curve as an idea, but don’t always think it applies to them! We think we are going to be better at remembering things later than we actually are. A quiz or test can force you into practicing retrieving and that makes it more likely for things to stick in your mind.
When you learn something – whether in a formal or informal context– you won’t remember a lot of it in a month or six months. Taking a quiz or test helps you retain that learning by providing retrieval practice and slowing the forgetting curve. If people take quizzes or tests, it slows down the forgetting curve – and quizzes with feedback slow down the forgetting curve more effectively than quizzes without feedback.
Will you discuss topic feedback and well as question feedback?
A lot of the research covers question feedback because it’s very easy to measure how well people do on a specific fact. But there is also evidence about topic feedback, and yes; I will be covering topic feedback as well as question feedback.
What would you like your audience to take away from your session?
I aim to practice what I preach, so I will use interactive techniques to help people remember what I talk about! I don’t want just to provide theory: I also want to give actionable ideas that people can apply to their Questionmark assessments to improve retention.
I’d like to add that I’ve found from talking with customers that the conference is a fantastic place to learn. People who come to the conference get a lot of formal learning – for instance by presentations from assessment experts and Questionmark staff who explain effective ways to use our technologies – but they also get a lot of informal learning from interacting with other users. I’m especially looking forward to presentations from our expert customers. Some of our case study presenters have been using our software for many years and have a lot of experience and wisdom to share. So I think I’ll learn a lot from those presentations myself!
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