practice tests – particularly ones that involve attempting
to recall something from memory – can drastically increase
the likelihood that you'll be able to remember that information
again later," Rawson said. "Given that hundreds of experiments
have been conducted to establish the effects of testing on
learning, it's surprising that we know very little about why
testing improves memory."
article titled "Why Testing Improves Memory: Mediator Effectiveness
Hypothesis," Rawson and Pyc reported an experiment indicating
that at least one reason why testing is good for memory is
that testing supports the use of more effective encoding strategies.
offered this illustration. "Suppose you were trying to learn
foreign language vocabulary," she said. "In our research,
we typically use Swahili-English word pairs, such as 'wingu
– cloud.' To learn this item, you could just repeat it over
and over to yourself each time you studied it, but it turns
out that's not a particularly effective strategy for committing
something to memory.
effective strategy is to develop a keyword that connects the
foreign language word with the English word. 'Wingu' sounds
like 'wing,' birds have wings and fly in the 'clouds.' Of
course, this works only as well as the keyword you come up
with. For a keyword to be any good, you have to be able to
remember your keyword when you're given the foreign word later.
Also, for a keyword to be good, you have to be able to remember
the English word once you remember the keyword."
done by Rawson and Pyc showed that practice tests lead learners
to develop better keywords. People come up with more effective
mental hints or keywords, called mediators, when they are
being tested than when they are studying only.
joined Kent State's faculty in the fall of 2004. Her grant-funded
research, undertaken with colleague Dr. John Dunlosky, psychology
professor and director of Experimental Training at Kent State,
seeks to identify effective study strategies and study schedules
for students to learn classroom material in a durable and
this year, Rawson traveled to the White House and received
the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers,
the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young
professionals in the early stages of their independent research
careers. Nominated by the U.S. Department of Education, Rawson
was one of 100 beginning researchers named by President Barack
Obama to receive this prestigious award. She resides in Stow,
her master's and doctoral degrees from Kent State. She worked
in Rawson's cognitive psychology lab. Pyc's research interests
involve promoting student learning, including when retrieval
practice is beneficial for memory, evaluating theoretical
accounts for why retrieval practice is beneficial for memory,
how students self-regulate learning, and how students' metacognition
is related to their self-regulated learning. She is now a
postdoctoral fellow at Washington University.
information about Kent State's Department of Psychology, visit