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

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. A variety of study questions, sample problems and practice exams are typically available for students to use. Alternatively, students can create their own questions, preferably in a format similar to the types of questions used on the course assessments. Some students use flash cards while other students prefer electronic tools such as Quizlet. To achieve deeper learning, questions should require students to make connections, comparisons or predictions as opposed to simply recalling definitions or facts. The benefits of this strategy are often enhanced when students collaborate with their peers.

How do we inspire students to use retrieval practice?