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Visit the Learning to Learn Home Page to learn about all of the strategies in the series.


What is retrieval practice?

How does retrieval practice help?

Evidence indicates that students learn better when they use strategies that involve active retrieval of information as opposed to relatively passive study techniques such as rereading or highlighting. The greatest benefits are achieved when the information that is retrieved is expressed in different formats (e.g., writings, drawings, diagrams), when students go back to check class materials for accuracy after they engage in retrieving, and when they do not just try to recall words and definitions but core concepts and ideas. Retrieval practice helps students identify what they do and do not understand, and focus their attention on what they really need to learn.

What are some retrieval practice strategies?

Frequent self-testing is one of the most commonly used and effective retrieval practice strategies. See Thomas Frank's You Tube Video on Flash Cards & Retrieval Practice. To achieve deeper learning, questions should require students to make connections, comparisons or predictions as opposed to simply recalling definitions or facts; in other words, ask your students to retrieve information that is difficult as that helps increase long-term learning. The benefits of this strategy are often enhanced when students collaborate with their peers, when they write down information, and when you, the instructor, gives feedback as that helps to increase metacognition.

How do we inspire students to use retrieval practice?

Strategy Toolkit for Instructors

Below are useful resources that can be used during class to encourage students to incorporate Learning to Learn strategies in their studies. The Toolkit includes links to more information about a specific strategy as well as the Learning to Learn Blog which provides an opportunity to engage in lively discussion with colleagues about creative ways to promote effective learning strategies for your students.