You’re Already a Learning Expert at Home, Here’s How

A Concept Called ‘Retrieval Practice’

Retrieval Pull

Liane Wardlow is a learning research scientist at Pearson—and a mom. Both of these roles are involved when she’s helping her children with their homework.

“My son often has spelling homework, or definitions,” Liane says. “Re-writing those words and definitions over and over again doesn’t help him learn as much as asking him to spell the words and explain the definitions out loud, out of order.”

It’s a concept called retrieval practice and, after decades and decades of research, it’s more or less proven to help learners create stronger memories about what they’re learning.

Ever read something, then forget it five minutes later? Liane says you’re reading, but you’re not putting the information in your long-term memory.


Learning Curves, Forgetting Curves

Learning curves are often steep for learners. That means forgetting curves can be steep, too.

“When students are getting ready for a test, they’re typically re-reading material or reviewing notes or re-immersing themselves in the material,” Liane says. “That’s much less effective than forcing a learner to retrieve memories about what they’ve learned.”

Liane says she tries to do this sort of thing with her daughter, too. “I ask her for her class notes, then I just ask her questions about the material,” she says.

“We’re all working towards student learning, towards improving their lives through learning beyond just memorization and forgetting,” Liane says. “This is a very simple, no-cost thing that everybody can understand and use to make the learning experience that much better.”

Pearson’s Research and Innovation Network is made up of top education experts who explore solutions and innovations for challenges faced by teachers, parents and students. They’re working to ensure that learning is engaging, meaningful, personalized and focused on student success.