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[Susan notes: We must follow Stephen Krashen's lead and insist on the deeper understandings. And if we can, like Steve, do it with both facts and humor, so much the better.]

Published in Chronicle of Higher Education

To the editor

Researchers quoted in "You Will Be Tested on This"

(The Chronicle, June 8) think that better retention

comes from repeated "effortful retrieval," and that

the best way to ensure this happens is with frequent


There is, however, a deeper generalization that is

consistent with testing research as well as other

research and observations: We retain facts and learn

concepts when they help us solve problems. Tests are a

crude way of doing this. More interesting, and

potentially more effective than frequent tests, are

projects that involve interesting problems to solve.

That is the way we continue to build our knowledge and

learn new concepts after we finish school.

One excellent way of integrating problem solving into

our classrooms is through writing. Several studies

confirm that writing about topics is an excellent way

of ensuring learning.

Frank Smith has pointed out that if a fact or idea is

important enough to us, only one exposure to it is

enough; no effortful retrieval, testing, or even

writing is needed. Most of us needed to hear only once

who was declared the winner of the 2000 presidential

election to remember it even years later. This insight

also explains why this poem is nonsense: "Do you love

me/Or do you not?/You told me once/But I forgot."

There will be no test on the contents of this letter.

Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Southern California

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