There are many ways in which we can formally assess our students. No matter how a teacher incorporates this teaching strategy, most agree, formative assessments should be used to drive a teacher’s next step in the learning process of their students.
Retrieval practice is an effective way to gauge student understanding even though it is a lesser-known strategy. Retrieval practice is a learning strategy to get information “out” of a student more often than just on summative assessments. These assessments should be “low stakes” which means they should not be graded. We spend so much of our time as teachers trying to put information “into” our student’s heads and hoping they remember it all on test day. We should be checking their understanding more often by seeing what information we can get “out” of them by encouraging retrieval during learning and not just on the unit test.
When students are asked to retrieve information, it takes effort and challenges them mentally. This is a better learning strategy for students instead of the straight memorization of information. Memorization is great for short term learning but effective, spaced-out retrieval of information promotes learning for the long term.
Here are some tips in implementing a system of retrieval practice.
1. Do not use it as an assessment tool, but as a learning strategy.
2. Make it low or no stakes to help reduce student anxiety.
3. Provide this type of practice frequently…..practice, practice, practice.
4. Use a variety of question types.
5. Provide student feedback.
Many of you are already implementing this practice in your classrooms. We ask students fact-based, multiple-choice questions using clickers, whiteboards, or colored index cards and concept-based/complex questions with bell ringers and exit tickets. Even though all these ways encourage students to recall information, it can be difficult to provide immediate feedback to students and the ability to change your instruction right away.
Technology tools can aid to streamline the retrieval practice process. The Formative website allows teachers to ask fact-based, multiple-choice questions that are corrected immediately. Teachers can view all student responses at one time and use this information to drive their next step. Also with Formative, teachers can ask concept-based/complex questions and will be able to see all student responses on one screen. Teachers also have the ability to type personalized feedback to each student to help them understand the mistakes they have made.
Check out the screenshots below of what the response screen looks like on the Formative website.