Do students cram for your exams? More pointedly, in the bygone days when you were a student, did you ever cram for an exam? Maybe the answers depend on how cramming is defined. How about this definition from a 1968 study: cramming is “a period of neglect of study followed by a concentrated burst of studying immediately before an exam. ” (Find this definition on p. 227 in the arti- cle referenced below. ) It will probably not shock any instruc- tor to learn that research does document that students still do cram.
What may be a bit surprising is the percentage of stu- dents who do: somewhere between 25 percent and 50 percent, depending on the study. In the research reported in this arti- cle, approximately 45 percent of students were on the agree side of a scale measur- ing the extent of cramming. However, there is one unexpected and unfortunate surprise: cramming as a study strategy is effective, at least by some crite- ria. This article’s review of the literature section lists five different studies conduct- ed between 1968 and 2001—all of which found that cramming did not affect course grades negatively.
This study did find more mixed results. If students agreed that they used cramming “for most of my courses,” those students tended to have lower GPAs, with the converse also being true. However, this study looked at a par- ticular course, Principles of Marketing, and for that course “the course grade is not significantly related to the degree of cramming reportedly used in the course. ” (p. 233) The problem with cramming has to do with retention and it is here that previous research, including this study, offers con- clusive results.
When students cram, the information is stored in short-term mem- ory and information stored there doesn’t stay there long. The results reported in this study illustrate this finding in a very graphic way. A student in the high-cram- ming category with a course grade of 85 would, at 150 weeks after the course (based on predictions derived from repeated test scores), be retaining only 27 percent of what he or she learned in the course. Several different models are used to project the progression of this “learning decay. Results are equally bleak in all cases. Despite the fact that many currently used assessment strategies promote cram- ming and the short-term memory acquisi- tion of content, it is not a case of one test- ing format promoting cramming more than another. Researchers worried that maybe multiple-choice testing methods actually encouraged cramming. That hypothesis was not confirmed by their results. Students crammed just as often for essay exams as they did for multiple- choice exams. There is a bit of cause for optimism, though.
Students in this study “resound- ingly agree” that cramming is not a strat- egy that enhances long-term learning and retention. They know it’s not the way to really learn the material. But because so many of their peers study this way, because college students tend to procrasti- nate, and because they now lead busy, busy lives, cramming is an appealing alterna- tive. This is another one of those articles packed full of good information on an important topic. It includes the 49-ques- tion instrument developed to determine if students crammed and if they thought the approach was effective.
Mean responses for individual items are also included. Administering an instrument like this to students can be as revealing to them as to the instructor. If time prevents that, shar- ing some of the responses to individual items on the survey could stimulate a live- ly discussion of this study strategy. Researchers also developed three different definitions for cramming that differenti- ate degrees that relate to the extent of cramming students reportedly do. It’s also one of those few research arti- cles with a thoughtful (and helpful) sec- tion of recommendations.
Some are rec- ommendations regularly advocated in this newsletter. Students must be taught the differ- ences between deep and surface learning, and instruction needs to be designed so that deep learning is valued and rewarded. Perhaps the most interesting and creative recommendations have to do with assess- ment. Clearly, tests that assess short-term recall make cramming a successful study strategy. Besides using different kinds of tests, the researchers wonder about the possibility of delayed retaking of exams— which would only work within the context of a major.
Sometime after a course has been completed, students would retake its final. Course grades would be in flux (as in, not finally determined) until they incorporated these retest scores. More realistic is a suggestion that students take course prerequisites immediately before the course. With less time between cours- es, students would lose less of what they learned and learning from the first course could be reinforced more immediately in the second course. Teachers are taken to task for their teaching methods in the recommendation section.
“The all-to-common use of PowerPoint slide lectures, even with in- lass handouts of the slides, does not engage students to take notes in their own language and handwriting, which shunts the processing of the material, leaving all effective learning to the cramming period at the end of the term. ” (p. 237) In other words, it’s not just test formats that assess deep learning that forestalls cramming; how material is presented in class can also make a difference. Reference: McIntyre, S. H. and Munson, J. M. (2008). Exploring cram- ming: Student behaviors, beliefs, and learning retention in the Principles of Marketing course. Journal of Marketing, 30 (3), 226-243.
Cite this Do students cram for your exams?
Do students cram for your exams?. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/do-students-cram-for-your-exams/