In Dr Brett Andreatta’s book Wired to Grow, she outlines how it is the act of having to recall or retrieve something we learned, rather than repeating it, which helps us learn it. This has a bearing on language learning where you’d think writing out irregular plurals (as I have been doing) repeatedly would make them stick in your mind – but no – it’s having to bring those plurals back out and into use that makes them stick. Retrieval doesn’t have to be via tests; it could be having to explain them to other people – or even to yourself (or blogging about what you’ve learned!) Conversation classes – which we’ve begun at UCLAN now – are a great example of retrieval in action.
She also says that research shows it’s best to have three retrieval sessions spaced with sleep. Sleep? Because ‘sleeping on it’ really does work – our day’s learning moves into long term memory during sleep.