Retrieval-Based Learning: A Perspective for Enhancing Meaningful Learning

Abstract

Learning is often identified with the acquisition, encoding, or construction of new knowledge, while retrieval is often considered only a means of assessing knowledge, not a process that contributes to learning. Here, we make the case that retrieval is the key process for understanding and for promoting learning. We provide an overview of recent research showing that active retrieval enhances learning, and we highlight ways researchers have sought to extend research on active retrieval to meaningful learning—the learning of complex educational materials as assessed on measures of inference making and knowledge application. However, many students lack metacognitive awareness of the benefits of practicing active retrieval. We describe two approaches to addressing this problem: classroom quizzing and a computer-based learning program that guides students to practice retrieval. Retrieval processes must be considered in any analysis of learning, and incorporating retrieval into educational activities represents a powerful way to enhance learning.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

References

  1. Agarwal, P. K., Karpicke, J. D., Kang, S. H. K., Roediger, H. L., & McDermott, K. B. (2008). Examining the testing effect with open- and closed-book tests. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 861–876.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson, R. C., & Pichert, J. W. (1978). Recall of previously unrecallable information following a shift in perspective. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17, 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2007). Testing improves long-term retention in a simulated classroom setting. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 514–527.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell, J., & Mayer, R. E. (2009). Questioning as an instructional method: Does it affect learning from lectures? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 747–759.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Dunlosky, J. & Rawson, K. A. (2012). Overconfidence produces underachievement: Inaccurate self evaluations undermine students’ learning and retention. Learning and Instruction, 22, 271–280.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Grimaldi, P. J., & Karpicke, J. D. (2012a). When and why do retrieval attempts enhance subsequent encoding? Memory & Cognition, 40, 505–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Grimaldi, P. J., & Karpicke, J. D. (2012b). Guided retrieval of complex educational materials using computerized scoring. Unpublished manuscript, Purdue University.

  9. Izawa, C. (1970). Optimal potentiating effects and forgetting-prevention effects of tests in paired associate learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 83, 340–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kang, S. H. K., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L. (2007). Test format and corrective feedback modulate the effect of testing on memory retention. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 528–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Karpicke, J. D. (2009). Metacognitive control and strategy selection: Deciding to practice retrieval during learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 469–486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Karpicke, J. D. (2012). Retrieval-based learning: Active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 157–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Karpicke, J. D., & Bauernschmidt, A. (2011). Spaced retrieval: Absolute spacing enhances learning regardless of relative spacing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 1250–1257.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331, 772–775.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2007). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 151–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). The critical importance of retrieval for learning. Science, 319, 966–968.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2010). Is expanding retrieval a superior method for learning text materials? Memory & Cognition, 38, 116–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Karpicke, J. D., & Smith, M. A. (2012). Separate mnemonic effects of retrieval practice and elaborative encoding. Journal of Memory and Language, 67, 17–29.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Karpicke, J. D., & Zaromb, F. M. (2010). Retrieval mode distinguishes the testing effect from the generation effect. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 227–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17, 471–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Koriat, A. (2007). Metacognition and consciousness. In P. D. Zelazo, M. Moscovitch, & E. Thompson (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of consciousness (pp. 289–325). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Kornell, N., Hays, M. J., & Bjork, R. A. (2009). Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 35, 989–998.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Leacock, C., & Chodorow, M. (2003). C-rater: Automated scoring of short-answer questions. Computers and the Humanities, 37, 389–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Leeming, F. C. (2002). The exam-a-day procedure improves performance in psychology classes. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 210–212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lyle, K. B., & Crawford, N. A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38, 94–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning and instruction (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Mayer, R. E., Stull, A., DeLeeuw, K., Almeroth, K., Bimber, B., Chun, D., et al. (2009). Clickers in college classrooms: Fostering learning with questioning methods in large lecture classes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 51–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. McDaniel, M. A., Howard, D. C., & Einstein, G. O. (2009). The read-recite-review study strategy: Effective and portable. Psychological Science, 20, 516–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. McDaniel, M. A., Agarwal, P. K., Huelser, B. J., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in a middle school science classroom: The effects of quiz frequency and placement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 399–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Nairne, J. S., Riegler, G. L., & Serra, M. (1991). Dissociative effects of generation on item and order retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory & Cognition, 17, 702–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Narloch, R., Garbin, C. P., & Turnage, K. D. (2006). Benefits of prelecture quizzes. Teaching of Psychology, 33, 109–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Neisser, U. (1967). Cognitive psychology. New York: Appleton.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Novak, J. D. (2005). Results and implications of a 12-year longitudinal study of science concept learning. Research In Science Education, 35, 23–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning how to learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Palincsar, A. S. (1998). Keepting the metaphor of scaffolding fresh—A response to C. Addison Stone’s “The metaphor of scaffolding: Its utility for the field of learning disabilities”. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 370–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 667–686.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Pyc, M. A., & Rawson, K. A. (2010). Why testing improves memory: Mediator effectiveness hypothesis. Science, 333, 335.

  38. Raaijmakers, J. G. W., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1981). Search of associative memory. Psychological Review, 88, 93–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15, 243–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Roediger, H. L. (1980). Memory metaphors in cognitive psychology. Memory & Cognition, 8, 231–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Roediger, H. L. (2000). Why retrieval is the key process to understanding human memory. In E. Tulving (Ed.), Memory, consciousness and the brain: The Tallinn conference (pp. 52–75). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Roediger, H. L., & Guynn, M. J. (1996). Retrieval processes. In E. L. Bjork & R. A. Bjork (Eds.), Memory (pp. 197–236). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006a). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006b). Test enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Roediger, H. L., Agarwal, P. K., McDaniel, M. A., & McDermott, K. B. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in the classroom: Long-term improvements from quizzing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17, 382–395.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Slamecka, N. J., & Katsaiti, L. T. (1987). The generation effect as an artifact of selective displaced rehearsal. Journal of Memory and Language, 26, 589–607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Stokes, D. E. (1997). Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic science and technological innovation. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

  48. Stone, C. A. (1998). The metaphor of scaffolding: Its utility for the field of learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 344–364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Tulving, E. (1974). Cue-dependent forgetting. American Scientist, 62, 74–82.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Tulving, E. (1983). Elements of episodic memory. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Wittrock, M. C. (1974). Learning as a generative activity. Educational Psychologist, 11, 87–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffrey D. Karpicke.

Additional information

The writing of this paper was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (DUE-0941170) and the Institute of Education Sciences in the US Department of Education (R305A110903). The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the US Department of Education. We thank Mindi Cogdill for assistance with manuscript preparation.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Karpicke, J.D., Grimaldi, P.J. Retrieval-Based Learning: A Perspective for Enhancing Meaningful Learning. Educ Psychol Rev 24, 401–418 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9202-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Retrieval
  • Learning
  • Metacognition
  • Meaningful learning