Student performance with and without retrieval practice Sixth-grade students performed better on material presented both in asocial studies lesson and on a quiz (retrieval practice) than on material presented only in a lesson — 90% — 80% — 70% — 60% — 50% Exam performance Retrieval Lessons Retrieval Lessons practice only practice only End of the chapter End of the semester 94% 81% 79% 61%
V N kappanonline.org of both lab and classroom research has demonstrated that retrieval practice improves students learning beyond rote memorization. I have to spend more time prepping for class and/or more time grading. As we mentioned earlier, small changes in class (like swapping reviewing for retrieving) can make a large difference for student learning. Many teachers already use these strategies, and cognitive psychology research affirms that teachers should aim to increase the amount of retrieval, feedback, spacing, and interleaving in the classroom. In addition, because these strategies are most effective when they are no- or low-stakes, they don’t require any grading at all. When students respond to a quick writing prompt in class, for example, there’s no need to collect their paper — it’s simply a retrieval opportunity for learning, not for assessment. I can’t cover as much material.
When it comes to the trade-off of time vs. content, think about it this way If students remember more, you save time by reteaching less. If we want to make sure that time spent teaching is time spent learning, then using research-based strategies to boost learning at the outset will make a large dif- this quick question Who was the fourth president of the United States A plausible answer may have jumped instantly to mind, but you probably had to struggle mentally to come up with a response. It’s precisely this productive struggle or desirable difficulty during retrieval practice and the three additional strategies that improves learning. By the way, the fourth president was James Madison, but you’ll likely remember that much better if you managed to retrieve it from your memory rather than waiting for us to remind you of the name!)
Teachers can use these four strategies (retrieval practice, feedback-driven metacognition, spaced practice, and interleaving) with confidence because they are strongly backed by research both in laboratories and classrooms. The rigor of science gives us confidence that these strategies aren’t fads, and successful classroom implementation gives us confidence that they work in the real world, not just in the laboratory. What are some hesitations when putting this research into practice? So far, we’ve presented a few basic principles of learning from cognitive psychology, briefly described the research behind them, and shared some flexible teaching strategies to improve learning (take a moment Can you retrieve the four strategies. However, we know it can be daunting to change teaching practices or add yet another approach to an ever-increasing pile of instructional tools. So here area few responses to common hesitations about implementing strategies like retrieval practice and spacing: These strategies only apply to mem- orization. Actually, a growing body of research demonstrates that simply encouraging students to retrieve what they know improves their ability to apply that knowledge, transfer it to new situations, and retain complex ideas in content areas ranging from Advanced Placement social studies to medical school. In one study, for example, college students learned about the structure of bat wings using retrieval practice. On a final test, students were better able to transfer their knowledge to questions about the structure of airplane wings (Butler, 2010). A wealth