Retrieval practice at Roundhay School

By Rachel Roo, Team Leader of Psychology and Sociology at Roundhay School

Rachel Roo, team leader at Roundhay School has embedded retrieval practice in her lessons and found huge success with it. Here she shares the successes she’s had and why she thinks all teachers should be using it.

Is retrieval practice popular amongst teachers?

I’m on Twitter, I love reading an education book and I’m a geek when it comes to improving my practice but in my conversations with trainee teachers it’s not something they are familiar with. I don’t think it’s routinely taught at a teacher trainee level and it should be because it’s phenomenally easy to do and it works, especially now that we have linear courses that kind of constant knowledge testing is vital. Students need knowledge to build more knowledge.

Spacing and retrieval are some of the two best things we should be using, and while some teachers are aware of it, they aren’t always aware of how they could use it and how easy it is to do.

Why did you start using retrieval practice?

I just wanted the students to be better at revising. As teachers we want things that are easy to implement that get the maximum gains for our students.

Retrieval practice is about the long-term learning strategy, so students know that their knowledge is important. The more you quiz your students the more they know that knowledge is important and their outcomes are going to improve. My students are finding that it’s massively changing how they are learning. This will have a knock-on impact on their exam results because it is making their learning more efficient and more effective.

It’s not just the latest teaching whim, it’s genuinely worked for our students. It’s about the students knowing the importance of their knowledge, the course they are studying is very content heavy and they can’t do anything with the knowledge until they’ve got it, so it really works for them to know their stuff. The little and often approach has reinforced good habits, they can’t hide from stuff that they should know. I’ve really noticed a change in their attitudes towards their learning, that I haven’t seen before. Now they are talking about their learning much much more.

The more retrieval you do, the more resistant students are to anxiety in the exam too. Those students that have practiced retrieval as a regular technique will be much more resistant to exam stress.

Would you recommend other teachers start using it?

I think all teachers should be doing it – this is going to be the future of teaching. It’s easy to implement, it doesn’t take a lot of time and it really does work.

What tips can you give for making it work?

It’s really important to teach why we are doing it, at any age, students will buy in more!
Feedback is also really important. They have to have the feedback on how well they are doing, it has to be automatic and it has to be immediate. They have to see where they have gone wrong straight away.

Do you think Doddle fits in well with retrieval practice?

Doddle works on exactly the same principles as retrieval practice, encouraging the student to be more independent and to quiz themselves. I think it’s brilliant and is a not threatening way of students getting to check their knowledge and the best bit is that teachers can assign them tasks and check if they are doing it or not.

See how we make retrieval easy.