“While retrieval practice can be very powerful at improving memory, some research shows that pressure during retrieval can undermine some of the learning benefit.” (Weinstein et al., 2018, p. 9).
Develop an evidence-based argument to advise teachers about the conditions under which retrieval practice is most effective and whether the potential benefits of retrieval practice are likely to be outweighed by the negative impact of increasing test anxiety. Use research findings from psychology to support your case.
What is Retrieval Practice?
Retrieval practice is a strategy that involves recalling information to mind to boost learning. This practice is important because it improves the long - term memory of learners if continuously used. According to Smith et al, 2014 recalling previously learned information enhances the generation of related information in the mind which boosts learning. Although retrieval practice enhances learning, it is observed that during the retrieval process, the applied pressure produces anxiety. This reduces the learning process of retrieval learning. According to me, retrieval practice boosts learning but if pressure is applied during recall, the anxiety inhibits learning as discussed below.
This retrieval practice as a learning activity and an assessment tool requires a mental process that forces you to create an answer to a question (Clark, Fox, and Schneider, 1998). This will require regenerating information you acquired sometimes back and thinking about it at the present. This information may be from hearing it or reading it from a text. For the retrieval process to be effective, you have to forget the information for a while so that the mind’s effort to recall it is fruitful. Reciting information immediately after accessing it is not an efficient way to use retrieval learning. In the classroom, retrieval learning can be exercised through answering past papers, filling short questions, answering spoken questions, using flashcards to test yourself, and making your questions and answering them (Clark, Fox, and Schneider, 1998).
Retrieval practice can be effective if the practice is spaced. The practice testing should be done within workable, realistic, and short intervals. It should not take a single long duration because the minds of the learners become exhausted. This time interval creates time for the students to forget some information and during the next practice; the setting tries to remember (Smith and Blunt, 2011). The effort used in recalling makes their long term memory strong.
Including feedback in the retrieval practice enhances effectiveness concerning what is exactly remembered. Retrieval of information for students is only beneficial if the intended information is remembered correctly. It is the role of the teacher to give feedback so that students can know if what they have retrieved is correct or not. This can be done by providing the answer to the question to be recalled at the end (Smith and Blunt, 2011). Another way of feedback to students is by letting the students confirm the correct answers from the text after the attempt to retrieve information.
Effective Retrieval Practice Techniques
Matching the retrieval practice to the summative assessment can be very productive. The exercise of recalling information by students should not be in vain. Whatever the student is guided to recall should be beneficial at the end in finding the final score (Smith and Blunt, 2011). The summative assessment should show the student that retrieval practices are important to boost memory. This can be done by including whatever the retrieval practice was about in the final practice.
Although retrieval practice has its benefits, when applied wrongly it has its negative effects that result mostly from anxiety due to pressure. This build-up pressure among students especially during trying to recall generates anxiety especially when they cannot remember. This in the long run makes the learner stressed when they find out that they have not gained much from what is expected from them. As a tutor, it is important to detect stress and manage it in the classroom because it creates an unpleasant learning environment (Smith and Blunt, 2011). The learners will not gain a lot from the subsequent teaching if they are bothered by stress caused by failing to retrieve information previously.
During tests, students may be nervous about how they are supposed to perform based on their memory. They are not sure if they will be able to fill the questions with the correct answers from the previous learning experience(s). The recalling stress created from this pressure can even make them forget what they already know. When memory retrieval becomes a problem, the student may even hate schooling on the aspects that it relies strongly on memory. This can be corrected by exposing the learners to a lot of retrieval practices so that they get used to it and overcome their fear of recalling.
Retrieval practice is more of a learning method than an assessment tool (Karpicke and Blunt, 2011). Recalling information by rehearsing already learned information boosts the memory capacity and promotes the interrelation of concepts learned. Recalling arranges information in the brain and draws similarities and differences. It also helps when learning complex concepts by recalling the previous simple content. Even during the assessment, retrieval still enhances learning because after recalling information and filling the assessment, it still sticks to the memory. Based on this, treating retrieval as a mere assessment tool is wrong because in the end it boosts learning. Most performing students and bright students use this practice well and in and outside the class to boost their remembrance capacity (Karpicke and Blunt, 2011).. Think capacity of the students is subject to be expanded daily and this can only be achieved through supporting them on some of how they will boost how they think and their capacity to remember past events. It is one of the used tools in teaching and learning that has helped so many students score well in their examinations.
Feedback in Retrieval Practice
Even though retrieval practice has its disadvantages, it has more advantages. The main demerits of retrieval practices arise from the fact that it causes anxiety among students due to pressure on the brain in the struggle to remember. The pressure arises because there are always consequences of failure that that overtime results from over-emphasis on exams (Rowson, Dunlosky and Sciartelli, 2013). Students compete and this is like the race during the examination. Although the main aim of the examination is to determine the capacity of understanding for the students, literally this is like a race in which each student is willing to lead in the exam. This results in pressure within the individual students trying to remember everything that might have ever taught in class. It can sometimes result in psychological stress within the students. There are many cases reported in many cases connected to the issues of retrieval practices leading to anxiety and psychological depressions. This can be efficiently dealt with and the anxiety minimized when the practice testing is done repeatedly, feedback provided, and the information contained in the summative test at least partially (Rowson, Dunlosky and Sciartelli, 2013). The anxiety can also be eliminated if the student is encouraged to put in more effort without looking at the score but at the result which is boosting the memory. It would be of more importance if the students are taught on the application approach of the tasks learned in class instead of focusing on memorization (Weinstein, Madan, and Scimeracki, 2018). The application will be the best way to resolve the issues because students will not have to remember some deep things but make applications to get the solution regarding what is already provided on the ground.
Retrieval practice is the most efficient way of learning. The results of effectively recalling information are what are important to students. Teachers should always try to deal with the anxiety of recalling to create a favorable learning environment for the students. According to Roediger and Butter 2011, there is a close relation between recalling knowledge and motivation. Based on the discussion above, it has been found that most of the students who make use f this practice do well in their examinations. It all needs better planning and good think and memory for the students to be fit in their assessment. During the examination of testing, this has been confirmed to be the most effective way the student would score better and remember all the concepts ever taught in class. A highly motivated individual at the point of inception of information is likely to recall the information at a later date. As an assessment tool, it facilitates working on examinations using the recalling process and putting together pieces of information. However, this should not be the main aim of the retrieval practice because it will discourage students who cannot get much out of it.
Teachers should always direct the retrieval process, give feedback, and make the students put more effort into the practice for their benefit. Furthermore, the practice is having some disadvantages. It is part of thinking and memorization and all students have no same level of thinking. This practice will be kind of salvage to the students with low memorization capacity. It will be kind of strenuous to such students as they try to cope up with the other students. Sometimes this may end up it the psychological stress and anxiety among those students towards understanding and remembering the past concepts. It would be the responsibility of the teacher then to monitor the capacity of the students and identify the ones with low capacity regarding this. This will help such a teacher help the students on how to get the concepts slowly and cope up with other students in the class.
Clark, J. W., Fox, P. A., & Schneider, H. G. (1998). Feedback, test anxiety and performance in a college course. Psychological reports, 82(1), 203-208.
Roediger III, H. L., & Butler, A. C. (2011).The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15(1), 20-27.
Weinstein, Y., Madan, C. R., &Sumeracki, M. A. (2018).Teaching the science of learning. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3(1), 2.
Rawson, K. A., Dunlosky, J., &Sciartelli, S. M. (2013). The power of successive relearning: Improving performance on course exams and long-term retention. Educational Psychology Review, 25(4), 523-548.
Smith, M. A., Blunt, J. R., Whiffen, J. W., &Karpicke, J. D. (2016). Does providing prompts during retrieval practice improve learning?. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(4), 544- 553.
Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331(6018), 772-775.
Hinze, S. R., & Rapp, D. N. (2014). Retrieval (sometimes) enhances learning: performance pressure reduces the benefits of retrieval practice. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(4), 597-606.
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