Thanks to our illusory superiority we consistently overestimate our performance on tests, and, without quality feedback, rapidly become oblivious to the gaps in our knowledge. Furthermore, many consider testing to be an ineffectual tool for assessing performance and errors to be counterproductive to learning.
Challenging this preconception is research suggesting that making mistakes on tests–and being informed of them–is an integral part of the learning process.
We tend to assume that the best way to consume and remember information is through the application of rigorous, extended study. What we fail to see, however, is that the process of trying to work through a problem to which we don’t know the answer focuses our attention on it in a way that simply studying it does not. The desire to get the answer right, and the frustration of failure, is partly to account.
But there’s another element as well. When we struggle to learn something, and fail, the moment we finally get the answer it imprints itself more deeply on our mind than it would have had struggle and failure not preceded it. […]
If I had to identify one overarching lesson from our study it would be this: When you make mistakes, don’t just let them slip by – correct them. Create challenging learning environments, make mistakes and then learn from them.
There is much in common here with the evidence-based approach to teaching.