Book available for pre-order!

We’re excited to announce that our book Five Teaching and Learning Myths – Debunked by Dr. Adam Brown and Dr. Althea Need Kaminske, is available for pre-order!

From the publisher: Drawing from research in developmental and educational psychology, cognitive science, and the learning sciences, Five Teaching and Learning Myths―Debunked addresses some of the most commonly misunderstood educational and cognitive concerns in teaching and learning. Multitasking, problem-solving, attention, testing, and learning styles are all integral to student achievement but, in practice, are often muddled by pervasive myths. In a straightforward, easily digestible format, this book unpacks the evidence for or against each myth, explains the issues concisely and with credible evidence, and provides busy K-12 teachers with actionable strategies for their classrooms and lesson plans.

“In this book, research on a complicated subject―teaching and learning myths―is summarized and made readable for teachers and other school staff. I recommend this to all people who educate. It will save you time, make your teaching more efficient, and ensure that your students learn more, better.”

―Stuart Lock, Principal, Bedford Free School, Bedford, UK

Five Teaching and Learning Myths―Debunked is perfect for the classroom teacher. It is an easily accessible and understandable text that can immediately be applied and improve the classroom. It is perfect for casual reading or whole-school professional development. As a teacher, I especially appreciate the kindergarten-to-twelfth-grade activities included with each chapter that assist with implementation of strategies in the classroom. I highly recommend this book for teachers of all age groups and abilities.”

―Blake Harvard, James Clemens High School, USA

“Brown and Need Kaminske’s book is something that cognitive psychologists have needed to produce for some time now: a brief, accessible, and well-organized guide to some of the most pervasive myths in how we learn. Most importantly, the authors also offer advice on what to do next, once they’re done debunking. Educators of all levels will learn something new about what the evidence from cognitive psychology has to say about common concerns about the classroom.”

―Joshua VanArsdall, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Elmhurst College, USA

“This joyful, informative book is packed with practical examples that will have you nodding in agreement and recognition the whole way through. Unashamedly aimed at those who love learning and love to learn about learning, it finds the right balance of brevity, allowing you to read and follow its narrative easily, and well-referenced evidence, so you can follow up anything you’re particularly interested in.”

―Niki Kaiser, chemistry teacher and Network Research Lead at Norwich Research School at Notre Dame High School, UK

“Teachers will find this book to be incredibly useful in understanding the myths and the research related to student learning. The book is clear and concise, making it accessible to teachers with a range of familiarity with research on teaching and learning. The connection boxes tie everything together to make a complex topic more understandable.”

―Megan A. Sumeracki, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Rhode Island College, USA

Buy it now from Routledge and from!


Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Written by Abigail Koetting

  Testing, a method to find out what students know or what they don’t know, plays an important role in measuring academic success. Children enter the world of testing as young as pre-k, with assessments on what they have been formally taught, such as their colors or shapes. At more advanced levels, students’ ability to multiply math facts or identify the adverbs in a sentence is tested to see if they have learned the presented information. According to Brown and Kaminske (in press), retrieval is when an individual reconstructs a memory so that they can recall certain information. When something is retrieved more frequently, the information becomes easier to remember because the individual gets better at rebuilding the memory. When we are testing students, we are asking them to retrieve information; this is the most effective way to learn because it requires students to not only retrieve the information from their memory, but to also produce, explain, and apply it when writing it down.

Student studying in class

To test the positive effects of retrieval in elementary-aged children, students who are in the most important years of development, Karpicke, Blunt, and Smith (2016) studied eighty-eight children around ten years old. They were asked to study a list of words and to either re-study the items, or practice retrieving them.

Children were shown two lists of twenty-four target words, ranging from three to eight letters long, and each target word had a unique category label. Each list was divided into two different sets of twelve items according to word length, frequency, and age of acquisition.

The tests were given to children as a group in classrooms, but they worked independently. In this study, three different experiments were run. Due to the fact that they were so similar, and for the purpose of clarity, the three experiments will be explained at once.

In phase one, the twenty-four target words were projected onto the screen in the front of the classroom, and students were told to study them for a memory test later. The experimenter read the words out loud for students, and then the children had an additional minute to study the words; after, the list was taken off the screen.

In phase two, there were two conditions. Children in the repeated study condition were given a sheet that showed the twenty-four target words and category cues paired with each target, and the items were shown intact (for example, fruit: banana). In the retrieval practice condition, children were given a sheet that showed the twenty-four target words and category cues paired with each target, but only the stems of the targets were shown with the rest omitted (for example, fruit: ba_____). These students had to restudy the words that were intact and recall the word that finished the stems. For this phase, they were allowed four minutes.

For phase three, the children from these two conditions had to complete a final free recall test. On a blank sheet of lined paper, they had to write down as many of the words as they could remember in any order. They had to be reminded though that the words they were looking for were the ones they either had restudied or completed from phase two, not the category clue words. For this phase, they were allowed four minutes.

Children also had to complete a final recognition test. The original twenty-four target words and the twelve distractor words were shown together in a random order on a piece of paper, and students had to read the words and decide if they had seen them earlier or not. They did this by circling either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ next to the words on the sheet. For this phase, they were allowed four minutes.

Looking at other kids notes

Additionally, children took the Maze reading comprehension test once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester; this test asked them to read passages where words were deleted and replaced with three choices, and students had to pick the word that made the most sense. The purpose of this test was to measure their reading comprehension. Children also completed the cross-out task, which required them to match geometric figures to the target figure- one that was the same. The purpose of this test was to measure their speed of processing.

Results from the three experiments showed that the retrieval practice resulted in high levels of initial retrieval achievement. Retrieval practice was advantageous over repeated study, so the experiments showed more positive effects of retrieval practice. The experiments also showed that recognition was higher for retrieved words rather than restudied words. Furthermore, children showed positive effects of retrieval practice regardless of their performance on the Maze or cross-out task.

Overall, the findings of this study support the theory that retrieving information has positive effects on learning. Therefore, testing is one of the best ways teachers can help students remember important information, as it requires them to both retrieve the knowledge and produce it.


Article sources:

Karpicke JD, Blunt JR, & Smith MA (2016) Retrieval-based learning: Positive effects of retrieval practice in elementary school children. Frontiers in Psychology 7.

Brown, A. & Kaminske A. N. (in press) 5 Teaching and Learning Myths – Debunked. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Testing… Beneficial or Detrimental?

Written by Katelynn Brown 

“Imagine twenty-two players frantically kicking a ball, running, and then kicking some more, not concerned about what direction the ball is kicked. Some players will enthusiastically run and follow the ball, while others will stand idly by and wait for the ball to come to them. Some players might even just give up in frustration and lie down on the field. If the ball accidentally makes it into the goal, the crowd cheers, but the players don’t have a clue as to why.” –Ben Johnson

Think of this concept in the classroom, does this sound like any classroom you are familiar with? How would this lack of direction help students? It wouldn’t! In education teachers try to provide and guide instruction to provide students with the information that they need. This is done through testing. When discussing education, many question why testing is crucial and necessary to learning. For teachers, testing provides direction for instruction, it provides information on what students are grasping and where they are struggling, and provides further data to guide future instruction. For students, testing allows students to identify their individual learning gaps and acquired knowledge, strengthen their retrieval abilities, and improve their memory. When used correctly and appropriately testing can be a beneficial method to help provide effective and meaningful instruction in the classroom.

Diversify Testing in the Classroom

When used appropriately, testing can be a powerful way to improve learning in the classroom. Testing asks students to retrieve knowledge, to activate their memory, and to demonstrate that knowledge. When the test accurately measures what is supposed to be measured it is valid. Valid tests, depending on the design of the test and what the instructor feels the goal of the learning is, should be able to measure learning. In the classroom, there are different forms of testing that can be used to for different situations and contexts. Teachers can use different forms of testing to help develop a better understanding of where students are successful and where students are struggling.

  • Formative/ Informal Assessment

Formative assessments are used in classrooms to check for understanding in an effective way in order to guide and direct instruction. These assessments are used during instruction rather than at the end of a unit or course of students. When used correctly, results from this form of assessment helps instructors recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately. It also helps students to identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. This assessment allows teachers to ensure that students are understanding what is being taught and ensures that students are not getting lost in the material. These assessments should be used frequently to guide instruction while or after students learn a new idea, concept, or process. Teachers can utilize use different activities and assessment tools to incorporate formative assessments into the classroom.

Classroom hands

  • Exit Ticket

Give students a question to answer that targets the big idea of the lesson and have students write a sentence or two. Teachers can also challenge student’s retrieval and ask about previous content that was covered in the class. As students leave, collect their exit ticket. As teachers go through the information determine what students understood the concept, somewhat understood the concept, or didn’t understand the concept. The size of each stack will provide guidance for future instruction.

  • Student Checklist

Teachers can provide students with a checklist and have them self-assess. Provide students with a checklist for each new concept or with various concepts. Ensure that students write a sentence or two plaining how they know they have got the concept or why they think they are struggling with the concept.

  • The Three Minute Paper

This activity can be use frequently either when presenting a new concept or after a lesson. The teacher provides students with a given amount of time. The teacher would instruct the students to “Take out a piece of paper and tell me what you have learning so far about ________”. The teacher will evaluate students responses to determine into separate piles of students who understand the concept, students who somewhat understand the concept, and students who do not understand.


  • Misconception Check

Teachers will provide student with common or predictable misconceptions about a specific principle, process, or concept. Ask the students whether they agree or disagree and explain why. These assessments can be provided in multiple choice or true/ false form. This assessment can allow teachers to acquire knowledge of where they misconceptions are present in student understanding.

  • Watch, Look, Listen

In the classroom, observing the actions, behaviors, and words of students can provide valuable data and serves as an effective formative assessment. Teachers can take notes as they conference with individual students, during shared conversation, or during collaborative learning groups. Teachers can assess which students have an understanding of the concepts being taught and which students are struggling.

  • Summative/ Formal Assessment

Summative assessments are used in classrooms to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit through the use of standards or benchmarks. Summative assessments are often high stakes. These tests are given using the same process, to all students in a classroom, school or state, so that every students has an equal opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do. Summative assessments cover a full range of concepts for a given grade level. This assessments serves as a final evaluation of what students have learned and if they have understood the concepts that were taught. There are multiple forms of summative assessments that teachers can use within the classroom.

  • Quizlet

This website allows teachers to build flashcards, quizzes, games, and tests in the app. On Quizlet teachers are able to use material and content created by other teachers or they can create their own content. Through the app teachers can keep track of student progress and data to determine what information students have gained and where they are having difficulty. Teachers can add images and voice recording to enhance the experience for students.

  • Portfolios

Portfolios is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled together. This assessments allows teachers to evaluate coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement, determines whether students have met the standards and academic requirements of the course, and helps students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners. Portfolios are a subject method used to assess student learning over time.

  • Projects

Projects allow students to synthesize many concepts into one product or process. They require students to address real world issues and put their learning to use to solve or demonstrate multiple related skills. Through the use of projects students are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in creative and innovative ways.

  • Tests

The most common form of summative assessment is the paper and pencil test. This test can come at the end of a unit, chapter, semester, or year. The purpose of this assessment method is to provide teachers with information about what the students have learned over the course of the unit, chapter, semester, or year. These assessments can include multiple choice questions, fill in the blank, short answer, and extended constructed response questions.


Alber, R. (2014, January 15). Why formative assessments matter. Retrieved 2017, from   

Eberly Center. (2015). Whys and hows of assessment. Retrieved 2017, from   

The Great Schools Partnership. (2016, February 18). Portfolio. Retrieved 2017, from   

Johnson, B. (2011, June 20). A different perspective: Teaching to the test. Retrieved 2017, from

Ronan, A. (2015, April 29). Every teacher’s guide to assessment. Retrieved 2017, from   

O’Malley, K. (2015, October 25). 4 common types of tests teachers give. Retrieved 2017, from

Is Testing Helping Your Memory?

Written by Katelynn Brown

Testing in education, is a concept that has been questioned and debated for centuries. Many question the benefits, drawbacks, and outcomes of testing in the classroom. Especially when considering learning in the classroom, many question how the testing process can impact student learning. When thinking about testing, many question how repeated testing can be beneficial to students and if testing truly impacts the learning experience? The answer… when used appropriately and effectively testing can benefit both the teacher and the students in the classroom. When used appropriately students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, recognize where they are making mistakes, and provide opportunities to improve retrieval and memory. Teachers able to use results from testing to plan and correct instruction to help support the development of students and to provide additional instruction where needed.

Dont Forget.png

Did I Forget That?

Have you ever found yourself asking, “Where did I leave my phone?” If you have, like many others, you became frustrated trying to remember trying to remember where you placed it. You searched around frantically looking for and trying to remember the last place that you might have seen it. Many times we find ourselves becoming frustrated with our memories and wonder why it doesn’t work like a computer. That’s because your memory is better! In the mind, our memory works by forming complex associations between cues present in our environments and target information stored in our brain. The target of these cues, is to trigger a memory.

When considering our memory, researchers have argued that memory helps us predict the future. Our memories take into account the complex patterns based on environment, context, and frequency that help it generate the best possible target with the information it has. Information that doesn’t get used very often is forgotten, unless it was associated with an emotionally-charged and important event. The more that you use memory the better it becomes. Researchers have studied testing as a way of practicing memory and examining what factors improve our memory by focusing on the process of retrieval. Retrieval is the process of rebuilding in order to call information to mind. Every time something is recalled and an individual is able to go through the process of retrieval, they get better at rebuilding the memory making it easier to remember the information in the future. As teachers, it is crucial to remember that retrieval is an active process that changes the learning experience of students. Through testing, quizzing, and repeated practice, students are able to change their retrieval ability for the future. Thus strengthening connections between cues and memories. In order for students to learn and succeed, it is important to provide opportunities for students to practice and to be tested in real-world scenarios. While in the classroom, teachers can use multiple techniques and strategies to help the students strengthen their retrieval, memory, and learning abilities.

How Can I Improve Memory?

Everyday students are learning and acquiring more knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom. As students continue to learn, it is important that they have effective strategies to help students make connection and utilize their memory to remember information. In the classroom, there are many strategies and activities that teachers can utilize to help students make connections and remember information. Through the use of these strategies students can improve their memory and retrieval abilities.

  1. Teach students to use visual images and other memory strategies

When learning new material, it is often easier to remember information that has been presented in different ways. Especially when teaching new concepts, it is important to use visual aids to help organize information. Images can be used as a retrieval cue to facilitate the recall or access of store information. Visual images or other words that the new information is associated with at the time it is stored in long-term memory. Through the use of visual cues it is easier to remember what has been read and seen. When students are provided with the retrieval cues, it is easier for them to access information that has been stored in long-term memory. The use of multisensory instruction enhances memory and learning or children. By presenting information in multiple formats, students are able to recode information, make meaningful connections, and facilitate long-term memory storage.


  1. Activate prior knowledge

When students are learning new information, teachers should activate their prior knowledge about the subject being taught. Activating prior knowledge about a topic provides students with a “hook” to hang new information on in their mental memory network. Teachers can utilize this strategy by discussing vocabulary, helping students make personal connections to the material, and discussing the topic prior to the lesson. This strategy allows students to focus on the more crucial information and engage in more effective depth of processing.

Student thinking.png

  1. Help students develop cues

Memory research has found that information is retrieved by using a cue and that cue should be present at the time the information is being retrieved. Teachers can use different cueing forms to help students make connections and remember information presented. Teachers can incorporate this into the classroom by providing students with different cues such as multisensory cues, helping students develop personal cues, and through the use of mnemonics. The use of mnemonic methods can provide the scaffolding for higher order thinking for students. Mnemonic learning can be helpful for retrieval of information in long-term memory. Mnemonics also provide visual imagery or verbal elaborations that serve as cues for recalling information that is meaningful. An example of this would be the acronym HOMES which can be used to represent the names of the great lakes. When using this strategy students can generate their own devices or their teachers can provide them.

  1. Provide retrieval practice

Research has shown that long-term memory is enhanced when students engage in retrieval practice. In the classroom, teachers can provide students with multiple opportunities to recall information from long term memory. Teachers can help students practice retrieval by asking questions and creating activities that incorporate recalling previous information that was presented in class. The process of testing can also help students practice retrieval. Prior to taking a test, when teachers review information they ask students questions or have students make up questions which allows students to recall information. When students are asked to create test questions, teachers are then able to determine what knowledge students remember and where students might need help recalling information. This allows students opportunities to practice recall and memory as well as providing teachers with information of what knowledge students have acquired. Practice tests can help to boost long term retention and can help decrease stress. Teachers can incorporate multiple forms of testing to help students practice their retrieval and recall abilities.

Classroom hands.png

  1. The spacing effect

Many times in the classroom, students are presented with new topics every day. Instead key ideas and concepts should be revisited throughout the school year. Research has shown that students tend to perform better academically when given multiple opportunities to review learned material. Teachers can incorporate this strategy in the classroom by asking students questions related to the previous content, creating activities and lessons that connect the material, or using homework to re-expose students to prior information.


Terada, Y. (2017, September 20). Why students forget and what you can do about it.         Retrieved 2017, from what-you-can-do-about-it

Thorne, G. (2003, January 1). What strategies can be used to increase memory? Retrieved 2017, from

Thorne, G. (2006). 10 strategies to enhance students’ memory. Retrieved 2017, from

Testing Roundup

Written by Erin Miller

Here are some articles about the topic of testing, and how it influences a student’s ability to learn.

Test-enhanced Learning: Using Retrieval Practice to Help Students Learn from the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University

Cynthia Brame and Rachel Biel discuss “test-enhanced learning,” and how the process of retrieving facts and concepts from our memory, can increase the long-term retention of those concepts. They also explain how repeated retrieval practice can enhance long-term memory.


Learn how to Study Using…Retrieval Practice from The Learning Scientists

Dr. Megan Smith and Dr. Yana Weinstein explain resources students can use to take charge of how they learn. They explain what retrieval practice is, and important methods for studying any topic that you want to remember.


Researchers Find That Frequent Tests Can Boost Learning from Scientific American

Annie Murphy Paul explains how research in cognitive science and psychology have shown that using testing in classrooms provides a more effective way to learn, and more success in the students recall of facts and understanding of topics.


A Powerful Way to Improve Learning and Memory from the American Psychological Association

In this article, Dr. Jeffrey Karpicke discusses how retrieval creates learning. Karpicke also discusses research conducted with Dr. Bauernschmidt, about retrieval-based learning, and how testing, or practicing retrieval, facilitates learning.



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