This is a bite-size research episode, where we briefly describe research findings on a specific topic. This week, Yana Weinstein talks about combining spacing and retrieval practice.
In Episode 2 we introduced retrieval practice, and in Episode 4 we introduced spaced practice. We are often asked whether these effective strategies for learning are only applicable to fact learning - at a recent workshop with K-12 teachers, we were asked:
What do these strategies do to students’ abilities to make inferences, apply what they know, and think creatively?
Megan responded to this question with a blog post aptly entitled "Retrieval and Spaced Practice Sound Great, but Are They Just for Memorization?". In this episode, I continue answering that question by describing the results of a study on spaced retrieval practice that looked not only at performance on factual questions. but also on higher-order (application) questions (1). The goal of this study was to extend the already huge evidence for the benefits of spaced retrieval practice to a situation where students were engaging in what they called higher-order learning.
The take-away points from this study are that spaced retrieval practice works not only in basic lab studies, but can also work in highly realistic classroom settings. Also, spaced retrieval can help not only memory of factual information, but also performance on more complex application questions. Thus, a very simple tweak in the timing of students’ retrieval practice can have a measurable impact on later performance.
Next month, we’ll continue by talking about Elaboration.
The Learning Scientists Podcast is funded by The Wellcome Trust.
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(1) Kapler, I. V., Weston, T., & Wiseheart, M. (2015). Spacing in a simulated undergraduate classroom: Long-term benefits for factual and higher-level learning. Learning and Instruction, 36, 38-45.