Supplemental instruction Austin Even as COVID-19 lingers and continues to impact our daily lives, it feels like we’re approaching some semblance of normalcy in classrooms. Though the pandemic has changed the academic landscape, students have returned to classrooms with new precautions in place or otherwise altered their educational paths to accommodate life in the shadow of COVID.


Cognitive science research has been the key to understanding how students learn for decades; and now more than ever, it is helping get students back on track. One of the best research-backed tools for addressing learning losses after 18+ months of remote/hybrid learning is called retrieval practice.


Retrieval practice is a powerful and effective learning strategy that has been around for years. This learning technique revolving around repeatedly recalling learned material without seeing it in front of you is a study method that encourages students to engage with academic material, improving learning outcomes in an active way. It is the best way to encourage learning and long-term memory gains.


Evidence from cognitive science research indicates that students learn more efficiently and effectively when they use strategies involving active retrieval of information while studying. While re-reading texts and highlighting notes are not terrible first steps, retrieval practice is much more valuable to learning. It helps students identify what they know well and what they do not yet understand about a topic, which allows them to focus on the gaps. Retrieval practice is widely regarded as the top study habit students can employ to help them learn more quickly and boost long-term memories of the acquired knowledge.


The most well-known tool for retrieval practice is the use of flashcards, including digital resources such as Quizlet. Another tool is to teach a concept to someone else–students might be paired to teach one another. An artistic retrieval tool is to have students create a drawing/sketch that illustrates their knowledge in a visual way. These and many other retrieval practice methods can engage students and keep them actively learning.


Retrieval practice helps in real-time, too. For example, on the day of an exam, students can take the first few minutes of the testing period to write down the critical information they will need throughout the exam. In math in science, such information might include key formulas and equations; while it might include grammar tables for exams in language classes. Retrieving critical information before beginning the exam can focus student thinking and help them plan their approach to completing the exam.

Supplemental instruction Austin Note that being familiar with academic content is not the same as actually knowing and understanding it. Retrieval practice improves the efficiency of learning, helps students commit information to their long-term memories, and allows them to access knowledge at will and then organize and apply it as required. Retrieval practice is very versatile and can work for any student, of any age or stage. 

Tots ‘N Tutors is a professional mobile and remote tutoring company that offers private tutoring in Austin, Texas as well as support to students from pre-kindergarten through high school, and also college. Tots ‘N Tutors provides structured tutoring sessions that are tailored to each student. Tutors will meet with students individually or in small groups, in person or virtually to address their needs. Contact Tots ‘N Tutors online at any time, or by phone at 512-789-8949.