They like retrieval practice when it is fun and easy
A really interesting study that has only just been released found that when retrieval practice was made easy (in this case, by giving lots of hints during it), students rated it as being:
- More fun
- More effective
- Something that they would use in future study sessions
The bad news for all of us is that the researchers also found that when retrieval was made easy, students ended up remembering less. It seems that for it to be effective, retrieval practice has to get students to think hard about the content. And most people don’t like thinking hard. They like doing things that are fun and easy – which kind of negates the whole point.
Once they do it, they feel way less stressed about it
So far, we have highlighted that students tend to avoid retrieval practice, favouring re-reading over it, and that when they actually do retrieval practice, they prefer the more fun but less effective version of it.
But how do students feel once they have actually done some retrieval practice?
This study asked students that exact question after using retrieval practice in preparation for their upcoming exams. The researchers found that:
- 72% of students felt less nervous
- 22% of students felt the same
- 6% of students felt more nervous
So, it seems that once we actually get students to practise retrieval, even though they may not have chosen it themselves, they do feel much better for it.
What About SEND students’ relationship with retrieval practice?
We often get asked by teachers and parents if retrieval practice is beneficial for SEND students as well.
Evidence suggests that they get the exact same sort of benefit. In this study, both students with or without ADHD benefited for retrieval practice and utilised it in a similar way. Of course, depending on each student’s individual needs, we may need to make some adaptions, but it seems that the broad guidelines remain pretty similar.
There is no denying that students have an uncomfortable relationship with retrieval practice, at least to start with.
It’s mentally taxing and forces you to confront what you don’t know. So, you can see why students may be reluctant to choose it themselves when working independently. And even once they start doing it, they tend not to naturally understand the conditions under which it works best.
So, what does this mean? We need to explicitly teach retrieval practice to students (and probably their parents too). Once we do get students to engage with it, not only will they learn from it, they will feel better about their learning too.