Students' Use of Retrieval Practice


Retrieval practice is the highly effective learning strategy of recalling facts and concepts from memory. Examples of retrieval practice include using flashcards, practice quizzes, open-ended recall, and other exercises where information is retrieved from memory. Research is mixed on whether or not students choose to use retrieval practice and whether they fully understand its benefits for their learning. Our research seeks to better understand student attitudes toward retrieval practice. We hypothesized that the type of retrieval under consideration–for example, ready-made quiz questions vs. free-recall summarization–might affect students’ inclination to study with retrieval practice. Two studies examined the popularity of two retrieval practice methods–practice quizzing and summarization–compared to passive studying (i.e., reviewing instructional materials). Study 1 was conducted with undergraduates in a laboratory setting (N = 93). Study 2 was conducted in high school math classes in four different high schools (N = 567). In both studies, participants were taught unfamiliar math lessons via computer tutorials. A study phase followed, where participants could restudy the materials in preparation for a test by selecting any of three study tools: quiz, summarize, or review. Participants could use any combination of tools and could also quit studying at any time. In both studies, the quiz tool was significantly more popular than reviewing or summarization. These results suggest that students’ inclination to use retrieval practice for studying may depend on the form of retrieval practice.