Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Retrieval practice can improve classroom review despite low practice test performance

Summary Review is often more effective when it involves deliberate memory retrieval. However, this advantage may depend on a high rate of retrieval success; students who are less capable with the material may be better served by another activity. In our study, year 9 geography students listened to factual information, then reviewed some of it with a retrieval practice and feedback activity, some with a reading activity and left some unreviewed. We also manipulated the presence of hints during review—hints can affect the rate of retrieval success during practice and are relatively easy for teachers to provide. When tested 1 week later, most students showed a benefit of retrieval practice, even those who had performed poorly during review. There was also some evidence that hints improved learning when they made retrieval practice easier. Our findings suggest that retrieval practice, properly implemented, is advantageous for students of all ability levels.

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