Retrieval Practice - Making Learning Stick at Alice Smith

Retrieval Practice - Making Learning Stick at Alice Smith
Primary Weekly Highlights

In this week's Primary blog post our Year 5 Leader, Marym Elagha, talks to us about the work she has been doing this year with the Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6) teachers on applying retrieval practice into their classrooms.

"Over the past 12-months, I have worked with the KS2 teachers at our primary campus on applying retrieval practice into their classrooms. This research-informed learning strategy, which involves students getting information out of their brains, rather than putting it in, has been proven to promote student memory recall. This works by moving learning from their short-term to long-term memory.

Ebbinhaus’ Forgetting Curve dates back to 1885 and shows the connection between the amount of time since students learn something and a drop in their retention of this. Our teachers have addressed this by putting into action regular retrieval of previously learned information and spacing this accordingly, so that students revisit concepts in a carefully planned manner. By bringing information up from their memory, students strengthen their ability to remember and use this as a stepping stone for their upcoming learning.

Memory retention versus tie chart

Some benefits of retrieval practice include: 

  • Retrieval practice is regarded as one of the most effective study strategies to support learning, for all learners.
  • Testing and low-stake quizzing helps identify which information a student can recall from memory, as well as gaps in their knowledge.
  • Retrieval practice can lead to better transfer and organisation of knowledge.
  • Research has shown that retrieval practice can reduce anxiety and boost confidence when carrying out high stakes assessments.
Children with whiteboards

It is important to note that retrieval practice is not a testing method. In fact, it is used as a low-stakes learning strategy. This is an inclusive learning method, which gives every child the opportunity to succeed. Students gain immediate feedback, so mistakes or forgotten content become immediate learning opportunities. This must be challenging enough and push the students to think, whilst maintaining an attainable level of difficulty. Getting this balance right is imperative. As a result of staff training, readings, trials and professional discussions, teachers now carefully embed this strategy into their lessons, to maximise student learning.  

Students writing

Students have engaged in various methods of retrieval, including quizzes, games, whiteboard activities, the use of online tools and various open-ended tasks. Using retrieval strategies in class has had a positive impact on student learning, with the data from this initiative showing tremendous improvement in student retention of concepts across all year groups.

This powerful learning strategy has been used to ensure students not only acquire new learning, but retain this in their long-term memory. This is a journey that the teachers at Alice Smith will continue into the future, to ensure that the learning sticks!"

Author: Marym Elagha, Year 5 Leader