Retrieval Practice to Support Memory

Retrieval Practice to Support MemoryA girl writing on a notepad
Regular retrieving learnt information supports memory retention. Image: Raphaël Jeanneret

Guideline 6 of the Universal Design for Learning checkpoints is concerned with Executive Function. In a previous post, strategies were introduced to support memory, with a promise to develop these suggestions further. Retrieval practice to support memory is the focus of this post.

Retrieval practice is a learning strategy where we focus on getting information out. It is the act of repeatedly recalling concepts and content taught without having the information in view. Through the act of retrieval, or calling information to mind, our memory for that information is strengthened, reducing the likelihood of forgetting the information. Retrieval practice is considered a powerful strategy for improving academic performance. It does not require specific technology or incur a cost. And, it does not consume significant additional class time.

You may wonder how a student with compromised executive function manages to recall information. For retrieval practice to be successful they need to participate successfully in recalling. Scaffolding is recommended to increase retrieval success. It should be made available to any student who requires it but is of special importance to students experiencing difficulty with executive functioning and/or recall.

Practical Strategies

Simple, easy-to-implement strategies to facilitate retrieval practice include the use of:

    • Flashcards: a series of cards, each containing a small amount of information to prompt a specific response.
    • Concept Maps: a summary of key ideas that are all related to a specific topic, showing the relationship between ideas. The map is usually presented in a diagram.
    • Quizzes: questions are asked to prompt recall of information.
    • Elaborative Interrogation: a strategy where the learner is exposed to (reads, watches, listens to) a key fact or concept and then generates an explanation for it, using how and why questions to support understanding of what the information means.
    • Direct verbal questioning
    • Self-questioning: a self-monitoring strategy students use to note their understanding of a text as they read or hear it. Simple questions students ask themselves may include:
        • What am I supposed to be learning about?
        • Does what I am reading or hearing make sense?
        • How does this connect to what I already know?
        • What is new about what I am learning here?
        • What makes perfect sense and what am I having difficulty with?
    • Making notes from memory: Students record notes (verbally or written) based on their memory, trying to record as much as they can remember about the information being recalled.

Many more practical, easy-to-implement strategies for supporting executive function and accessing the curriculum are suggested in previous UDL File posts. Or check out the CAST UDL framework.

There is more about Universal Design for Learning on this website.

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