When students are asked to write down everything they remember immediately after reading a text, their long-term retention of the material improves dramatically compared to students who re-read the passage. The key is quizzing students immediately after a lesson using low-key instruments that don’t raise the anxiety level. Students in classes with a regimen of regular low stakes quizzing carry their learning forward through the term like compounded interest.
**Spaced review –
A way to enhance the retrieval effect is to repeat the process at gradually widening time intervals, just as memory begins to fade. The added effort required to recall the information makes learning stronger.
It’s also helpful to combine different items to be remembered – eg several types of solid geometry problems in a random sequence. This improves retention and better prepares students to apply learning in real-world situations.
EFFECTS OF RETRIEVAL PRACTICE
The most frequently used study methods like highlighting, re-reading, create illusions of mastery but are largely wasted effort, because they do not involve practice in accessing or applying what the students know. In one experiment, students who used immediate testing earned A- grades on material, compared with C+ grades for students who used conventional methods – and the advantage the first group had was still there when students were re-tested eight months later.
As learners encounter increasingly complex ideas, a regimen of retrieval practice helps them to form more sophisticated mental structures that can be applied later in different circumstances.
Testing shouldn’t be a white-knuckle finale to a semester’s work, but the means by which students progress from the start of a semester to its finish, locking in learning along the way and redirecting their effort to areas of weakness where more work is needed to achieve proficiency.
These steps cost little and cultivate habits of successful learning that will serve students throughout their lives.