Retrieval Practice

When I first joined Twitter, I dipped my toes into Twitter chats by participating in #eduread. This small group of math teachers shared and discussed educational books and articles, and although some resources were content specific, most books focused on great educational practices.

Right before I changed jobs, our summer book was Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Because I was in a career transition, I did not participate in the chat, but I did read and study the book. (This new phase in my life coincided with my beginning of listening to podcasts. I discovered The Cult of Pedagogy blog/podcast with this episode, where Jennifer Gonzales interviewed Peter C. Brown, the author of Make It Stick.) Because I was teaching adults, rather than children, I wasn't able to try any of the strategies from the book with my own students, so I only occassionally grabbed the book to review and share a learning strategy.

Fast forward a couple years, and another Cult of Pedagogy podcast episode grabbed my attention, and this time, I am determined to make it stick. In this episode, Gonzales interviewed Dr. Pooja Agarwal about the power of retrieval practice, and the research and the implications on learning blew me away. Even better, Dr. Agarwal shares many ideas you can try tomorrow in your classroom, and they require very little prep or materials.

I started practicing retrieval in my PD sessions by changing one slide. For extended trainings (all day or mult-day) I typically provide a bullet-pointed list of "Remember, here's what we covered earlier." This information puts information into participants' heads.
From this slide...

Here's how I changed my slide to pull information out of participants' heads to provide the exercise of retrieval. this one!
Notice the "Without peeking" part of the instructions!

This very minor tweak allows me to demonstrate retrieval, and then start our conversation about how it could look in classrooms.

Dr. Agarwal founded, and her site contains resources, research, and ideas...but at the very least, sign up for her newsletter. You can also glance at the newsletter archives to see all the learning goodness she shares. Her work is definitely relevant and classroom friendly. (You may have seen Dr. Agarwal's interview during the Ditch Summit, but unfortunately, that video is no longer available.)

This information and research is so important, so I'm trying to share her work with as many people as possible. I even brought up the idea at my dinner group (all teachers, so school talk is the norm) which led to a fun follow-up. One of my friends reached out to a former student who is now a cognitive scientist, and this was her viewpoint:

One last related resource: The Learning Scientists are contributors to the Retrieval Practice site, but they also have their own podcast and resources. They're working their way through the Six Strategies of Effective Learning, and they have two podcast episodes per strategy.

Have you read and applied the work from Made to Stick? What are you doing to improve learning in your work?

I'm always learning (and working to make it stick!)