Remember More! Retrieval Practice for Deeper Learning

by Sudipti Kumar | Director of Research, Dave Hamilton | Director of Programs

On Friday Sept 18, Elevate hosted a webinar that went deep on the concept of retrieval practice, the process of recalling learned information when needed, and how important it is for students’ learning.

Recent research has shown classrooms which support students via retrieval practices – particularly when doing so in a spaced format and with feedback incorporated – help students build not only their skills in recalling information, but also in drawing inferences and making connections – key skills in higher order thinking. Below, we highlight a few slides from that webinar including some of the research presented as well as how to incorporate effective retrieval practice into your classroom.

You can view the webinar and download the slidedeck here.

We started our webinar talking about the broader context of memory. Retrieval is the last of three parts to our long term memory which involves encoding: the initial learning of information, storage: maintaining that information over time, and retrieval: accessing the information from storage when needed.

One of the research studies we highlighted showed the remarkable impact of spaced retrieval on a student’s ability to retrieve information over time – a difference of 75% as compared to studying once and 50% over single and massed retrieval.

Often conflated as “testing,” some might worry retrieval practice, adding quizzes for instance, could add to student anxiety. However, research actually points to the opposite. 74% of students who participated in low-stakes/no-stakes retrieval practices reported having less anxiety going into an exam.

When planning how to best scaffold retrieval practices, we highlighted the importance of students finding success, especially early on. We described the “right” amount of difficulty in terms of the Goldilocks Principle – not too hard but also not too easy. If students demonstrate low retrieval, add prompts either to expectations or by hinting at content. If students too easily retrieve information, reduce prompts by asking for a more open-ended response or by asking students to apply previously learned knowledge to a new scenario or challenge.

We discussed a few practical retrieval methods and revisited some of our old favorites including flash cards. In the case of flash cards, we suggested trying a “waterfall” technique which asks students to separate the cards they know from those they do not know as a cascading series of decks. Studying in this manner applies the spaced retrieval we know has the greatest efficacy into shorter study sessions.

The entire webinar and slidedeck are free to view and download here.