Chalkboard vs. Whiteboard: Which is Better for Learning?

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Updated on Jun 11, 2013

There is some debate about whether chalkboards or whiteboards are better for health, aesthetic, ecological, and other reasons. Some academic departments have switched back from whiteboards to traditional chalkboards believing that students learn better using this traditional tool. This experiment explores whether using a chalkboard or a whiteboard for the visual presentation of information leads to better retention of that information.


Which helps us remember information better: a chalkboard or a whiteboard?


  • A traditional chalkboard
  • Chalk
  • A whiteboard
  • Colored whiteboard markers
  • A timer
  • Paper and pencil for tracking results
  • At least 20 test subjects


  1. Develop simple memory tests. Depending on the age of your test subjects, these tests can be a collection of shapes or simple pictures (for example: a heart, a sun, a flower), or, for older subjects, lists of words. For each test subject there should be two equally-complex but different tests.
  2. On the chalkboard draw/write the pictures/words for one of the two tests.
  3. On the whiteboard, using various colored markers, draw/write the items for the other of the two tests.
  4. Show the test subject one of the boards. Allow him to study it for 30 seconds.
  5. Take the board away and ask the subject to name as many of the pictures/words as he can remember. Record the type of board and number of items remembered.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 using the other board. (Switch off which test you write on which board and which board you show the subject first in order to prevent test, test-practice, and test-fatigue bias.).
  7. Repeat steps 4 to 6 for all test subjects.
  8. Analyze the results. Did one type of board lead to a higher number of items being remembered than the other?
  9. Extension: A day or two later, ask test subjects to again list all the items from the tests that they can remember. Note on which of the two boards the items they remembered were seen. This will test effectiveness for long-term rather than short-term memory. Is there a difference in results for long and short-term memory?

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