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  • Scott Murphey

Retrieval Practice: Tests Tests Tests

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

One basic idea that I think teachers should be thinking about when they teach is called Retrieval Practice.  This is not really a new concept but the way we think about it in learning may be new.   Retrieval practice is any act of bring information from our long term memory to our conscience mind.

One of the most common forms of retrieval practice is tests.  We all know about tests, but retrieval practice is not limited to tests.   Retrieval is basically any way you try to bring up information you learned to your working memory, the less of a prompt you need or (scaffolding) the stronger the connection.  Research has shown this to be one of the best way to make strong connections.   (Generally this is paired with some other strategies, like spacing, but I will talk about those in later posts.)

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

At Home:

How can you tap into this amazing practice at home.    When you are studying for something, or kids are trying to learn something,  like spelling words for example, after some time has passed (an hour, day, week,

etc... (depending on how strong you want the learning to be the more you space it out)  you have kids sit down and retrieve or remember as much as possible with out any prompts.   Two key points to this:  First you must give the kids some time to do this, to try to pull up as much as they can.  Second it will seem like at first they are not as successful as if they would be using flash cards or have some sort of scaffolding but in the long run this will create stronger memories.   When they are finished with the retrieval exercise, they then go back and study what they struggled with.   The cool thing is that the research shows that not only will the have a stronger memory for what they did know, but also they will make stronger connections to the stuff they didn't know as well.   Win Win!  Here is a good website with some ideas for kids and retrieval practice ideas I like.    This is a great website for kids, parents, and teachers. 

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