Use Retrieval Practice to Help Students Build Retention and Increase Metacognition

Learn how retrieval practice, an active learning technique that involves recalling information from memory, can improve long-term retention of information, increase metacognition, and make studying more efficient.

Use Retrieval Practice to Help Students Build Retention and Increase Metacognition
Photo by Natasha Connell / Unsplash
HTML Editor - Full Version

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All affiliate links are marked with an asterisk (*). Thank You! Read more here.

Retrieval Practice

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:

Retrieval Practice Ideas and Resources

Retrieval Practice Book Recommendations:

You Need a Teacher Strong Shirt - 15% Off with code ZAZZMADE4YOU
❤ Enjoy this post? Forward to a friend and let them know where they can subscribe (hint: it’s here). Send comments or just say "Hi" on Twitter - @jeremyajorg. If you haven't checked out the subscriber resources take a look here 👀. Why Edify is a reader-supported publication. You can show your support by sharing this article, buying me a cup of ☕, or shopping for some of my favorite gear 🙏.