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šŸ’” Retrieval Practice: Supercharge your Learning

published7 months ago
1 min read

Hi, Iā€™m Teo! Happy New Year and thank you for being here! You are receiving this because you signed up for my newsletter exploring the systems and tools that help us better study and understand the world.

This year's first email is about Retrieval Practice, a technique you can use to retain more information in a shorter period of time.

It requires more effort than constantly re-reading the material, but trust me, it's worth it.

What is Retrieval Practice?

One of the most robust findings of learning research over the past hundred years is that learning is much more effective if the learner seeks to recall the information they know through retrieval learning techniques based on testing or self-testing of concepts.

So the focus falls not on committing information to memory, but on getting it out, even if it's incomplete.

In The Psychology of Effective Studying, Dr. Paul Penn shows that repeated self-testing of memorised material produces superior recall when compared to an equivalent period spent rereading the material.

For example, a simple quiz in which you answer questions after reading or listening to something generates better recall and learning than re-reading the text or reviewing notes.

What's more, if you let a few hours go by and retake the quiz, the neural connections previously formed become even stronger and forgetting is less likely.

How to Put It into Practice?

Retrieval practice basically consists of several techniques, all serving the same purpose: long-term memorisation of information or acquisition of skills.

Here are some techniques that you should use in order to study effectively:

  • Repeated self-testing: Read a section of text, set it aside, and try to explain the content in your own words (in your head, to someone else, or in writing). Then check that you have remembered it correctly. Repeat as many times as necessary. Pause between two attempts.
  • Try to recall the main ideas of a text without looking at your notes.
  • Explain key concepts to yourself or someone else
  • Create your own study material: flashcards, guides, summaries, anything that requires processing information and putting it into a new format.
  • Solve a problem before learning the solution. You'll make more mistakes, but later you will remember it better because of the effort you put in.

Retrieval learning techniques require more effort and make you feel less productive. But the effort you put in produces lasting learning and allows you to apply the information in much more versatile ways. And this has been scientifically proven.

This Week's Inspiration

What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations.
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~ Peak by K. Anders Ericsson

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