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Are you in favour of retrieval practice?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    One Year 6 teacher who followed the approach has seen an improvement in Sats results:

    ‘Could simply revisiting prior learning at the start of a lesson in this way really help pupils to remember and apply knowledge more effectively, I wondered. Instead of using a starter activity as a "way in" to the lesson, would it be better to use it this time to encourage recall?

    …So I began looking into the research around retrieval practice and came across the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist who studied memory in the 1880s. He is perhaps best known for what is called the "forgetting curve", which illustrates the way in which people forget information they have learned, with the sharpest decline occurring in the first 20 minutes after learning, and retention continuing to decrease significantly throughout the first hour…’

    Laurence Holmes is a teacher at The Mill Primary Academy in West Sussex.


    What are your views about retrieval practice?
  2. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    Retrieval is one thing to improve leaning, but there are many other factors to consider too, such as perceived importance, repetition, and prior knowledge.

    Surely retrieval practice should be happening anyway, if your planning and lessons build on each other requiring them to retrieve the knowledge they'd learnt previously?
    mothergoose2013 and bonxie like this.
  3. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Buzz words and jargon -- in this case, "retrieval practice" --- are always irritating to people who have been using the techniques being describe, usually from before the person making them up were born. But never mind, it is an interesting article all the same .
  4. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    Ebbinghaus' research that created the forgetting curve consisted of a sample size of 1. Himself remembering made up patterns of letters! I wonder if that would even get published now.
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Learning how to remember things, there's a thought.
    I recall a post that I have no intention of tracking down where some young snapperwhipper mocked those of us who "had to put all the text book in our heads" while their generation had the information on tap in google.

    I also recall an anguished article from a youngster bewailing the need to learn lots of the physics formulae I needed to learn. I thought knowing the formulae was a key step to showing understanding.

    I have noticed some of my year 12 group sometimes googling things that I expected them to know. The new harder GCSEs haven't always led to greater recall.
    agathamorse and blazer like this.
  6. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    So start your lesson by recapping previous learning! Now why, in my 30 years in the classroom, didn't I think of that?
  7. Bobbbs

    Bobbbs Occasional commenter

    Is this entire nation a joke? Like, really? This is teaching 101 back where I'm from.
  8. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    I'm confused. If the students don't know today what I taught them yesterday they are likely to be utterly confused by what I am going to teach them next. So I need to check, probably by asking a series of questions that they know and understand yesterdays material before I move on or go back over yesterday's work.
    This is newsworthy?
  9. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Ditto. Posts #2 #3 #6 #7 & #8
    mothergoose2013, TCSC47 and ajrowing like this.
  10. aypi

    aypi Senior commenter

    I did Contol Engineering at university about 30 years ago. All I can remember about it now is 1 graph and you can make equations.(No idea how to make one though). I am not even sure if I did it for two years or 3!

    I like the theory of teaching something, then visiting it a week later, two weeks later, a month later, then in time for the exam.
    Then you can forget about it.
  11. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    Everything you read about Psychology tells you that this is true. The act of trying to recall something helps you to remember it, and the best time to try to recall something is when you're just about to forget it. There's no benefit in telling the students something and then immediately asking them to recall it.

    And, much as I hate to accept that it might be true, "teach one, test three times" is more effective than "teach three times, test once".
  12. jusch

    jusch New commenter

    Considering how often content needs to be recalled to find its way into long term memory, maybe the standard 5 to 10 minutes of "activating prior knowledge" at the beginning of the lesson are not enough. If we have children who do little homework or revision at home, frankly, it might be better if every lesson was two thirds revision, one third new stuff.
    All that we normally manage to revise in the starter is what was done last lesson, rarely what was done a month or 4 months ago. On the rare occasions I have tried to revise older content, pupils have done really badly. But then there was no time to genuinely go over it again, as I had so much new stuff to teach, so I just told them to revise better at home, which they ignored.

    I think one of the reasons for this is the traditional obsession with lesson observations. They make teachers focus on visible progress within that one hour, while progress over time is rarely looked at. I have been in departments full of inspiring, experienced teachers, giving great individual lessons, but overall student progress was often hampered by bad schemes of work, in which a sensible distribution of content over time had never been considered. Because SLT never look at the schemes of work anyway.
  13. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Exactly. This is the crux of the whole problem.
  14. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    'Visible progress over one hour' is not the same as learning that will be retained over time. Making teachers focus on that, because that's what they will be judged upon, really doesn't help pupils learn over the longer term. It would make much more sense for SLT to focus on the difference between what individual pupils know/can do at the beginning, middle and end of the academic year. Teachers would then be less stressed by constant scrutiny and have time to focus on developing their pupils' learning without undue interference from SLT.

    For any pupils not making appropriate progress, a discussion could then be had with the teacher about whether the individual pupils had been paying attention and working hard in lessons, doing their homework, revising etc. If not, SLT should then be responsible for the contacting parents about their responsibilities to their child in supporting their learning at home and instilling in them the importance of learning and putting in effort at school.

    If the majority of pupils are working hard in lessons and doing their homework/revision etc and still not making appropriate progress, the SLT should then discuss teaching methods with the teacher and be able to advise on any changes (which have already been researched and proven to be effective) which could be made to the methods currently being used, the schemes of work being followed and kinds of resources used to support learning. If a teacher is found to need extra support to develop their skills, further inservice training courses should be provided to ensure that they are able to teach well.

    The chances of all this happening? Nil.
    mothergoose2013 likes this.
  15. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I really don't understand the question. If you are not doing that, then what are you doing when you walk into a classroom? unless you are there to claen the windows, maybe
    mothergoose2013 likes this.
  16. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter


    I am in favour of something I’ve been doing since 1982.

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