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The importance of retrieval practice in learning and how Network International School Yangon applies it

The importance of retrieval practice in learning and how Network International School Yangon applies it

As teachers, we are constantly exploring and utilising different learning techniques to enhance student performers. Retrieval practice is a technique which now features prominently in lessons around the world due to its proven benefits. Retrieval practice is based on the idea that the act of recalling information from memory helps to reinforce that information and promote long-term retention of knowledge.

Cognitive scientists, Dr Jeffrey Karpicke and Dr Henry Roediger III who are based in the United States, published a study in 2006 on the benefits of retrieval practice, which sparked the interest in the education sector on the method. Karpicke states “Retrieval practice has been shown to enhance learning and improve long-term retention of information across a wide range of materials, from simple facts to complex concepts.” This demonstrates that the method can work across a wide range of subjects and topics. For example, in History, retrieval practice can involve recalling events, dates and key figures. In Science, retrieval practice can involve recalling formulas or experimental procedures. All subjects can benefit from the use of the method too. 

Network International School Yangon retrieval practice

Retrieval practice can be embedded in lessons by various tasks. The tasks should promote active learning in the classroom. This could be as simple as effective questioning, creating concept maps, interactive starter tasks or creative flashcards. Research into retrieval practice states that these methods are highly valuable when it comes to revision and preparation for exams due to the active learning nature of the tasks. While revising, students should not be undertaking passive learning techniques such as rereading notes from their class book or watching videos. Cognitive scientists have proven that knowledge is not retained as well by these types of passive learning methods and students. Karpicke and Roediger’s study in 2006 also found out that students who used retrieval practice to study for an exam performed better than the students who used other methods. 

Network International School Yangon retrieval practice 1

Some other exciting research on retrieval practice proves that the method works for students of all ages. From primary school, all the way through to university, students can continue using this method for better results. There is also research that shows the effectiveness of the method for students where English is their second language. By using the method, students can overcome the challenges of learning a new language such as forgetting words or struggling with grammar. Students will be able to identify areas where they need to improve and focus their learning efforts accordingly. When students can recall information effectively, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and it is likely to motivate the students to continue excelling in their studies. 

Network International School Yangon Retrieval Practice

Outside of the classroom, retrieval practice can work in other areas and help improve students’ transitional skills such as problem solving. In certain sectors, it has also been used in job training and sports teams now use it for strategies and techniques. 

There are other prominent academics and scientists who continue to research retrieval practice. Dr Pooja Agarwal, who is a leading advocate of using retrieval practice in the classroom, created the retrievalpractice.org website which provides a variety of resources and information on the topic. Kate Jones, is a teacher who trained in the UK and now works in international schools, has written many books on retrieval practice. These books share more information on the research on the method and offer examples for teachers and students to use. Her most recent book was published last year which focused on how retrieval practice can work in primary schools.

Network International School Yangon - Retrieval Practice

At Network International School, we recognise the benefits of retrieval practice and teachers are implementing the methods into their lessons. This allows us to see improvement in students’ work and their exam results, as well as supporting them for the future. 

Tom Roberts 
Teacher of Humanities
Network International School

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