Retrieval Practice is a strategy I wish I embedded into my practice very early on in my teaching career. It has only been in last year or so, that I have embraced the technique and tried to implant it into my everday teaching.
I first read about retrieval from IMPACT, a journal I receive as a founding member of the Chartered College of Teaching. [Interim Issue, May 2017 & Issue 1, September 2017] Follow @CharteredColl. I have written further blogs on retrieval practice.
- 20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice
- 10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!
- Mid Topic Retrieval Quizzes to aid metacognition
I created my own grids and you can find examples here of ones I have upload to TES and free to download here. I even got students to create their own to self quiz each other – the template can be downloaded here.
The grids do take time to create and it was a lightbulb moment when I saw Adam Boxer Follow @adamboxer1 was collating what he called ‘retrieval roulette’ activities. If you have not come across this as yet, I fully recommend that you take 5 minutes to explore this page on his blog.
It has become ingrained for students to enter my lab, turn to the back of their books (BoB) and complete the 6 questions for a low stakes assessment. If they do not know the answer – I now get them to write the question out as well. This example of routine self quizzing is a win win starter and is linked to the “Forgetting Curve” which was first described by Hermann Ebbinghaus. Ebbinghaus explains that information is lost over time and in order to “recall” this information we must first “retrieve” it. He also suggested that if you have forgotten something and then retrieve it, it will stay in your memory for longer. I use this idea, and idea of retrieval practice which is explained very well with downloadable materials by Follow @AceThatTest. Why Retrieval works by Follow @RetrieveLearn is also a recommended read.
Step forward a few months. Our CPD across my school for this academic year is based on applying ‘metacognition.’ While I reflected about how I use and can better embed metacognition in my own lessons, the more I saw the links between retrieval and metacognition. I did not want students just to experience teacher led retrieval but know which strategies work best for them and support their learning. Karpicke (2009) shows that students do not retrieve often or early enough, so I wanted to make sure students were self-reflecting at every learning opportunity.
I have used plickers in the past to assess progress ( Using Plickers to assess for Mastery ) however for this I wanted something more substantial in their books. I wanted it to cover retrieval, metacognition and teacher feedback to aid my workload and to inform my future planning. I decided upon a mini quiz half way through a topic and trailed it with a year 9 triple science class. The topic in question was from AQA Physics “the Particle Model of Matter.” I created a 20 question quiz that I uploaded to TES for you to download. If I was lazy I could that used the questions I use at the start of lessons however I wanted fresh questions. We then self marked these questions and I allowed time for student reflection.
What has gone well?
Where are my knowledge gaps?
Why have I got knowledge gaps?
Am I able any strategies I have used to content I have remember to content I don’t remember?
How else am I able to learn?
This ticked the boxes in my own 3 step success criteria:
1) Students had a ‘surprise’ quiz with no access to books
2) Questions were just from the topic we were studying some of which had been taught by a student teacher. (5 from Kinetic Theory, Specific Latent Heat, Specific Heat Capacity and Density)
3) Questions were self assessed
4) I decided to record the score when I gave written feedback
5) Chance to reflect on what is going well so far in the unit of work
6) Identify knowledge gaps
7) Link knowledge with their topic checklists. See how I use checklists with my classes here.
8) Give the students chance to reflect on how they have learnt
9) Aid reflection on how to transfer useful skills and strategies
10) I have printed this out on yellow paper (school policy) so they are the building blocks of any written feedback I give to students.
The feedback I have written as been quick and to the point so will hopefully allow for more learning. The weaker areas of the topics will be explored in more detail in future lessons as retrieval based starters such as these 20 starter activities to stretch & challenge students
I gave out to students as a surprise ‘test’ or ‘quiz’ as I called it as I thought it would really see the impact of retrieval. I have not told students yet, but I plan to issue the same quiz out again after term to see the effects. (More on this later). I may also complete further mid topic retrieval quizzes after I have instructed students to complete various topics on Seneca Learning to see if that makes a difference as well. There are lots of different pathways where this could go, I am sure I will blog the results in the future.
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