Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Barbara Hull (Advisor), William Romine (Committee Member), Christa Agiro (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


In traditional approaches to teaching, examinations and quizzes have been considered secondary activities, designed to assess and motivate learning, but not generally as teaching tools in themselves (Roediger and Butler, 2011). However, abundant psychological research in laboratory settings indicates that the act of taking a quiz or examination on the material can directly enhance retention of that material in ways which are distinct from and often more effective than restudying of the material. This phenomenon is now referred to as the testing effect. The testing effect hypothesis asserts that (1) repeated retrieval attempts have a longer lasting effect on retention than repeated study attempts, (2) this effect is more pronounced in pure retrieval situations than in recognition situations, and (3) the effect is influenced by the timing of the testing relative to the presentation of the material and the timing of feedback on the results of testing (Wheeler et al., 2003; Karpicke and Roediger, 2008; Toppino and Cohen, 2009; Smith and Kimball, 2010).Despite the body of clinical research, the applicability of the testing effect to actual educational settings has not been rigorously demonstrated, in part due to the wide range of educational environments and purposes. The primary objective of this project was to investigate the classroom validity of the testing effect in an undergraduate/graduate Vertebrate Histology class. The aim was to determine whether low-stakes testing (non-graded quizzing) could be used to increase students' retention and final exam scores. A regression discontinuity (RD) design was selected for the research since it offers the treatment hypothesized to be most useful to subjects most in need of such an improved approach (in this case, those with lower test scores). RD is a quasi-experimental design that assigns a cut- off or threshold, with a treatment/intervention allocated to either the above the threshold or the below the threshold group. In this case, the hypothesized superior treatment (non-graded quizzing) was used for students who fared less well on the initial test, while those who scoredhigher were given an equivalent exposure to same facts in a restudy activity. Results were measured using students' final exam scores.The experimental results did not provide support for the primary hypothesis; there was no statistically significant improvement in grades for students who underwent non-graded quizzing compared to the restudy group. Potential explanations of this outcome could be researcher error, the complexity of the material to be learned (van Gog and Sweller, 2015) or (in this researcher's opinion) the small sample size (Trochim, 2006)

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Biological Sciences

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

Biology Commons