Are you a university student struggling to remember information from lectures and study sessions?
If so, you're not the only one! We are going to do a comparison between Active recall vs Retrieval practice, both can help college students to improve their long term memory retention and smash your tests and exams like a pro!
As a seasoned ex-student, I understand only too well that studying can be a challenge! Spending what feels like endless hours studying, wondering if there was a more effective way to spend my time.
Surely they had to be more effective methods to try! I started experimenting in high school (over 10 years ago) with the learning process trying to find the most effective revision techniques. Then I discovered these two!
In this blog post, I'm going to explain what active recall and retrieval practice are all about, why they work and how they might help you level up your study skills and goals!
So in another of my helpful blog posts, let's get started discovering how these innovative techniques for improving university students' memories can help you revise like a boss!
First, we will get the short answer before we put these two titans of study head to head.
This post is all about Active Recall vs Retrieval Practice.
ACTIVE RECALL VS RETRIEVAL PRACTICE
Active recall and retrieval practice are memory-boosting methods that can improve both short term and long-term memory retention in university students. Both retrieval practice and active recall have been proven to boost long-term memory retention compared to passive learning methods. These two approaches work to improve memory and learning skills.
Ok so with the mini answer sorted, let’s start first by understanding more about retrieval practice.
What is retrieval practice?
Retrieval practice sounds complicated, but it is simply what happens when you try to remember information without it being right in front of you.
So for example, if you're learning about the different systems in the human body such as skeletal systems, you can do retrieval practice by trying to name them without looking at a list.
After you've written down as many as you can remember, you can check your book or study notes to see if you got them right.
However, it might be that you're thinking this isn’t inventing the wheel here!!
But did you know that the whole concept of flashcards (even digital flashcards) is actually built on retrieval practice?
This learning strategy is the basis of many types of study you are familiar with and are a proven method of study. By actively quizzing yourself using flashcards, you engage in retrieval practice, reinforcing memory retention.
Ok so now we understand it’s a fairly simple process with an impressive name, you might be wondering how retrieval practice works.
Related Article: Active Recall vs Flashcards: How to Study Better for Eams?!
"It is simply what happens when you try to remember information without it being right in front of you"
How does retrieval practice work?
Do you ever find yourself re-reading the same information over and over, just to try and remember it?
Well, you may be surprised o discover that simply re-reading material is not the most effective way to commit it to memory.
Instead, retrieval practice, or active retrieval, has been shown to produce better results when it comes to long-term retention.
So, how does it work in our brains exactly?
By recalling information, we are able to strengthen the neural pathways in our brain that are responsible for storing that information.
Essentially, the act of trying to retrieve information from our memory bank creates a more solid and lasting connection between the neurons responsible for that memory.
So, the next time you're trying to memorize something important, put down the highlighter and try actively recalling the information instead!
Related Article: Active Recall vs Rereading: Which Study Technique is Better?
“By recalling information, we are able to strengthen the neural pathways in our brain that are responsible for storing that information.”
Effective Strategies for Retrieval Practice
- Practice testing using various formats, such as multiple-choice questions or short-answer tasks.
- Concept mapping or creating mind maps to visually organize and retrieve information.
- Utilizing the Cornell note-taking method to facilitate active recall during review.
What does the research say?
So there has been a lot of research looking ar the effectiveness of this form of study.
One conducted by Agarwal and her colleagues did a study on how retrieval practice affects students on a social studies course.
So for a year and a half, students were quizzed on only some of the material they had learned with test results not counting towards their grades.
The exams they took at the end of their study unit showed that those students managed to get a full grade higher on the quiz material than information that hadn’t been studied using retrieval.
So practising and reviewing material clearly showed that there was much better overall retention of information reflected by their better grades!
The Benefits of Retrieval Practice: Evidence from Research
- Multiple studies, including those conducted at Purdue University, have demonstrated the positive effects of retrieval practice on long-term learning.
- Retrieval practice boosts memory retention, promotes higher-order cognitive processes, and improves recall of important information.
“Students attained a full grade higher on the quizzes”
So what is active recall and how does it compare to retrieval practice in smashing your study goals?
Read on to discover more.
What is active recall?
It's a type of retrieval practice that's been shown by many different studies to be more effective than simply rereading information.
So, what exactly is it? Well, active recall involves actively recalling information from memory without external cues, rather than just passively trying to soak it in students' heads. It goes beyond passive review and engages cognitive processes that enhance learning efficiency.
To find out more about how active learning compares to passive study head over and check out my other helpful articles.
So you might either quiz yourself on the material, explain it to someone else, or even try to remember as much as you can on your own.
The whole idea of active recall is that you are actively engaging with the material, which helps to strengthen the connections in your brain and makes it easier to retrieve that information in the future.
It’s worth knowing that not only does active recall really work, but it’s also been proven by scientists!!
There has been a wealth of studies from as early as 1939 through Karpicke and Blunt's 2011 paper, which is probably the best example of the effectiveness of active recall studying.
So, if you're looking to boost your learning and retention, consider adding some active recall to your study routine!
Ok, so are there any similarities between these two types of study?
Differences and similarities: Active recall Vs retrieval practice
So just to break it down simply, retrieval practice is the act of recalling the information you've learned from your memory, while active recall is the process of actively reviewing and recalling information.
Retrieval practice can involve things like taking practice exams or answering questions about the material you've learned.
Active recall, on the other hand, can involve simply trying to remember information as we’ve learned above.
Although they are different study methods, they do share some similarities.
- One of these is their effectiveness in enhancing long-term memory retention.
- Both retrieval practice and active recall have been proven to boost memory recall compared to passive learning methods.
- Both methods are incredibly useful when it comes to studying and retaining information, as they force your brain to work harder and engage more with your learning material
The Benefits of Active Recall and Retrieval Practice
Both active recall and retrieval practice offer a range of benefits for learners looking to optimize their study techniques. Let's explore some of the key advantages of these two methods:
1. Enhanced Long-Term Retention
Engaging in active recall vs retrieval practice exercises our memory retrieval processes, leading to improved long-term retention of information. By repeatedly accessing and recalling information from memory, we strengthen the neural pathways associated with that knowledge, making it easier to retrieve in the future.
2. Deeper Understanding and Comprehension
Active recall and retrieval practice require us to actively engage with the material and retrieve information independently. This process promotes deeper understanding and comprehension of the subject matter.
Instead of passively reviewing notes or textbooks, these techniques encourage us to actively process and manipulate information, facilitating a more meaningful learning experience.
3. Identification of Knowledge Gaps
Through the act of retrieval practice, we become aware of our strengths and weaknesses in a particular subject. When we struggle to recall specific information, it signals areas where our understanding may be incomplete or less robust.
Recognizing these knowledge gaps allows us to focus our future studying efforts on those areas that require further attention.
4. Efficient Study Time Utilization
Active recall vs retrieval practice help optimize study time by focusing on the most critical information. By actively engaging with the material and testing our knowledge, we can identify the core concepts and information that require reinforcement.
This targeted approach allows us to allocate our study time more efficiently and effectively.
5. Transferable Learning Skills
The skills acquired through active recall and retrieval practice extend beyond a specific subject or topic. These techniques develop our ability to recall and apply knowledge in various contexts, facilitating better learning outcomes across different domains.
The skills cultivated through these methods become valuable assets for lifelong learning.
The Testing Effect: The Science Behind Active Recall
The testing effect, also known as test-enhanced learning, is a phenomenon supported by cognitive sciences.
It highlights that actively recalling information through practice tests yields better long-term learning outcomes compared to passive study techniques.
What are the 3 R's of memory retrieval?
The Three R's of Memory Retrieval: Recognition, Recall, and Relearning
- Recognition: Identifying information when presented with cues or options.
- Recall: Retrieving information without external cues.
- Relearning: The process of reviewing and reacquiring information that has been forgotten or partially lost.
What is the 3 step active recall remembering technique?
- Step 1: Generate Your Own Questions
- Step 2: Attempt to Recall the Information
- Step 3: Review and Correct
This method encourages active engagement with the material and helps solidify memory traces.
So if you want to improve your memory and learning, the best way is to use these two approaches. They are really worth taking the time to delve into!
Incorporating Active Recall and Retrieval Practice in Your Study Routine
To leverage the benefits of active recall and retrieval practice, here are some strategies you can incorporate into your study routine:
Create flashcards: Develop a set of flashcards with questions or prompts on one side and answers on the other. Regularly review and test your knowledge by actively recalling the information.
Practice self-quizzing: Design practice quizzes or questions related to the material you are studying. Answer the questions without referring to any external resources and assess your performance afterward.
Engage in regular summarization: Summarize the information you have learned in your own words without relying on notes or textbooks. This exercise helps reinforce understanding and facilitates active recall.
Participate in study groups: Engage in discussions with peers or study groups where you can actively retrieve and share information. Encourage each other to recall key concepts and challenge one another's understanding.
Utilize online resources: Take advantage of online platforms that offer retrieval practice tools, such as virtual flashcards or practice tests. These resources can provide additional support and opportunities for active recall.
Remember, the key to maximizing the benefits of active recall and retrieval practice is consistency and repetition. Incorporate these techniques into your regular study routine and allocate dedicated time for active engagement and retrieval.
Final thoughts on Active Recall Vs Retrieval Practice
So as we’ve discovered, there is no incorrect answers. Active recall vs retrieval practice are two supercharged study techniques for strengthening your memory, but you don't have to choose between them!
Bottom line, its a good idea using both methods you can maximize your learning potential and hit your grades like a boss!
They can help to increase your confidence when taking exams, boost your performance in class and help you to keep hold of information for longer periods of time after studying.
Reviewing your coursework using active recall method and retrieval practice, it can be an invaluable skill set when looking to deepen your understanding and of course, make sure your ace your tests and exams!