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Benefits of Retrieval Practice for Students
Retrieval practice is a learning strategy that involves actively recalling information from memory. Instead of simply reviewing notes or re-reading a textbook, retrieval practice requires students to retrieve information from memory, which has been shown to enhance long-term retention of information. Simply put, the act of periodically quizzing yourself helps information “stick” in our brains.
1. Improved Long-term Retention of Information
Retrieval practice improves long-term retention of information. When students actively retrieve information from memory, they strengthen the neural pathways associated with that information, making the information easier to recall in the future. This means that retrieval practice helps students retain information for longer periods of time, which is especially important for exams and other assessments. It’s even more effective when practice sessions are spaced out and/or cycled.
2. Increased Metacognition
Metacognition refers to a student's ability to monitor and regulate their own learning. Retrieval practice can help students develop metacognitive skills by providing them with feedback on what they know and what they don't know. When students actively retrieve information from memory, they become more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, which can help them focus their studying efforts more effectively.
3. More Efficient Studying
Retrieval practice can also make studying more efficient. When students actively retrieve information from memory, they can identify areas where they need to focus their learning efforts. This can help students prioritize their studying time and focus on the areas that will impact their overall understanding of a subject. I will often ask students to keep track of what they don’t know in their science notebooks. Students begin to understand what they know and what they don’t, then they can focus their energy on areas that provide the most benefit.
Retrieval practice works. By actively retrieving information from memory, students improve their long-term retention of information, enhance their understanding of concepts, develop metacognitive skills, and make their studying more efficient.
Read on to find resources that can help you build retrieval practice into your teaching routine.
The more students understand how and why retrieval practice works the more likely they are to buy into using the various strategies. Teaching them the science behind retrieval is the best place to start.
Retrieval Practice Resources:
- Quizzes aren’t just for checking in with students at the end of the unit, they help them learn along the way.
- Education Corner - What is Retrieval Practice and Why it’s it So Powerful? Concept maps are one of my favorite visual ways to use retrieval practice.
- Research - Retrieval practice consistently benefits student learning.
- Count the Ways - Ten Ways to Use Retrieval Practice in the Classroom
Retrieval Practice Ideas and Resources
- Flashcards (paper and digital) - My favorite digital flashcard tool is Quizlet.
- Brain Dumps
- Concepts Maps
- Jigsaw Method
- Think, Pair, Share
- Frequent Quizzes - I like using Quizziz, Quizlet Live, and Formative.
Retrieval Practice Book Recommendations:
- Powerful Teaching* - Unleash the Science of Learning
- Make it Stick* - The Science of Successful Learning
- Small Teaching* - Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning
- Why Students Don’t Like School* - A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How The Mind Works and What It Means For The Classroom
- Uncommon Sense Teaching* - Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn
- Retrieval Practice* - Research and Resources for Every Classroom
- Learning How To Learn* - How To Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying - A Guide for Teens