Retrieval practice

by / Wednesday, 15 April 2020 / Published in Instruction

Memories in the Brain -3D

The concept of Retrieval Practice is not new to many of us (think flashcards), however in recent years more research has been carried out into how effective the practice of retrieval really is for our students by showing it to be one of the most powerful tools for committing learning to long-term memory. This blog post takes inspiration from various sources which have been included at the end of the post if you would like to read further into this topic.

Retrieval Practice is the deliberate crafting of a series of activities that require our students to recall / remember information from memory, not from an external source. The more opportunities that students are given to recall the information the more effective the practice will be.

Retrieval Practice should not be confused with assessment. Whilst the activities may look like assessments and could additionally be used formatively, the purpose of the learning strategy is for recall for committing learning to long-term memory. You should provide your students with the correct answers each time the they finish particular types of activity, so they are not committing misconception to long-term memory. For coherence in learning practices, you could also design your retrieval activities so they are similar to the formal summative testing students will undertake.

A commonly asked question is how often students should be doing the Retrieval Practice, the answer is as often as possible. You could do it the end of lesson, week, month, unit of work, whatever works best for the content you are studying. This is why embedding the activities is about crafting them into your planning and not just a random pop quiz here and there. A point to note, the more difficult the retrieval task, the more effective it is.

One of the important things to remember when starting to embed Retrieval Practice is that students should be given the opportunity to ‘retrieve’ on their own as much as possible before adding other people into the activity.

Ways to embed Retrieval Practice into your classroom teaching.

No Stakes Quizzing. You must remember that retrieval is most successful when you are asking the students to recall the information multiple times, so a one/two time Kahoot quiz won’t have the desired effect. You need to plan in across the semester when and how you are going the ask the students to retrieve the knowledge.

Mind Maps. Ask students to recall everything they can remember on a topic and create a mind map. This could then be combined into a pair, group or class activity.

Flashcards. Whilst we are all familiar with flashcards as a learning tool, using them in the most effective way is a critical part of the process. Mastered cards should be kept, the pack shuffled, and the answer actually recalled before turning the card over. For some more great tips that you could share with your students please go to

If you would like to read more about Retrieval Practice please see below

To see a concept map of how retrieval practice works click here Learning Scientists Retrieval Practice Concept Map


#tags to follow on social media: #retrievalpractice






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One Response to “Retrieval practice”

  1. Brigid says :

    Also commonly known as the research based technique of “Spaced Repetition Learning.”
    Kahoot Self Challenge now embeds this Practice and you can use Quizlet too. You can set “ personalized learning” on when you set up a Live Kahoot. Or alternatively the self challenge embeds SPL.

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