Pupils perform better in tests if they are told the exercise is to help them learn rather than to rank them against their classmates, according to a new study. This is from the Telegraph…
Girls in particular benefit from seeing tests as an opportunity for learning rather than a competition, in subjects where they traditionally lag behind boys.
Presenting exams as part of the curriculum, rather than an exercise in comparing pupils against one another, could make them more effective and help teenagers reach their full potential, experts said.
Researchers from Clermont Université in France studied the best method of setting tests in science lessons – a subject where girls are often reported to score lower marks than boys.
They divided 192 high school students into three groups. One was told that at the end of their lesson they would take a test to “compare your abilities to other students”, while a second heard that the test “will help you remember the lesson.”
A third group was told they would be “asked some questions” when the lesson finished but researchers stressed that their answers would not be evaluated.
The study, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, showed that both girls and boys performed best when told they would be tested, but only for their own benefit.
Girls’ performance dropped by four per cent when they believed their grades would be compared against their classmates’, while boys scored 10 per cent worse when told the questions were not a form of assessment.
Dr Céline Darnon, one of the authors, said the findings were likely to apply to other subjects where girls are stereotypically expected to be outscored by boys.
“Previous research shows that girls generally underperform when taking competitive science assessments whereas the opposite is true for boys,” she explained.
“The conundrum is how to achieve a learning environment that brings the best out of both. Our study demonstrates that both sexes can perform better when assessments are seen as a learning tool that will count towards their final grades but doesn’t set them in direct competition with their fellow classmates.“