There aren't many books about teaching that truly excite me, but I just finished reading a book that every educator should read. How We Lean: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey details several techniques that teachers and students can employ to increase student learning. Teachers may have heard of or even used a couple of the techniques, but Carey provides the background and details that will allow teachers to say "here's what I'm doing, and here's why it works" to themselves, their students, colleagues, and administrators.
Why will I give chapter pre-tests from now on? To see how much students know? No. To have students see what they know before beginning a new unit? No. I'm going to give chapter pre-tests because studies have shown that even when students fail to answer the pre-test questions correctly, a seed is planted that changes the way a student interacts with the content of the upcoming chapter, with students who took pre-tests performing better on assessments than those students who did not take the pre-tests.
One other technique described in How We Learn relates to those of us who have year-end exams, such as state assessments, Advanced Placement Exams, and course final exams. Carey describes the "spacing effect," which calls for students to space out their studying in a unique way. He's not recommending that students study several days in a row leading up to their test, which many teachers have probably recommended to their students. Carey suggests that non-study days be inserted between study days leading up to a test. Research has shown that retention of information for the long term increases using this method, thus student performance on cumulative tests, such as year-end tests, increases.
Read How We Learn so you can apply the rest of what Carey presents in order for your students to learn more effectively.
Madison High School