Training Students in Retrieval Practice to Enhance Self-Regulation of Learning

Jacqueline Wong

Several articles on supporting the efficacy of retrieval practice, also known as the 'testing effect’, have been shared in the current website. Research shows that learning performances can be enhanced by repeatedly recalling the materials to be learned rather than spending the same amount of time relearning the same materials. To maximize long-term retention, research suggested that materials should be successfully recalled at least three times. Therefore, students may not enjoy the potential benefits of retrieval practice if they drop the material once it has been successfully recalled, termed as ‘one-and done’ strategy (Ariel & Karpicke, 2017). Aligned with assumptions of theories on self-regulated learning (SRL), students will not restudy materials once they assumed that they have already learned the materials. As a consequence, students will be poor in regulating their learning if they are not skilled in knowing what they have already learned. Therefore, to enhance self-regulated learning, one possible way is create an awareness of effectively using a learning strategy.

Ariel and Karpicke (2017) conducted two experiments to examine whether minimally instructing students to practice retrieval until the to-be-learned information has been successfully recalled at least three times will enhance self-regulated learning. In the first experiment, they compared a group of students who were told to remember as many materials as possible and a group of students who were told that repeated testing is an effective strategy and the best way is to ensure that they recalled each material at least three times during the learning phase. The group that was given the direct instruction on retrieval practice performed better than the group that was given the general instruction. Furthermore, the direct-instruction group was better at self-regulated use of retrieval practice than the general-instruction group by choosing to self-test more and retrieving each material at least three times. The authors concluded that students are capable of using retrieval practice effectively with minimal instructions.

In the second experiment, the authors wanted to examine whether students who received a one-time intervention on effectively using retrieval practice will continue to use the same strategy in subsequent learning sessions. The results showed that students used the same strategy without any additional instructions, suggesting that instructing students to effectively use retrieval practice has a lasting effect on students’ use of retrieval practice to regulate their learning.

The results of this study showed that a simple training in which students are instructed on the effectiveness of retrieval practice can improve students’ use of retrieval practice, and in turn, enhance self-regulated learning. Therefore, training students may be crucial to the development of more effective self-regulated learning.


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