Improving Self-Regulated Learning With a Retrieval Practice Intervention

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Abstract

Repeated retrieval practice is a powerful learning tool for promoting long-term retention, but students use this tool ineffectively when regulating their learning. The current experiments evaluated the efficacy of a minimal intervention aimed at improving students’ self-regulated use of repeated retrieval practice. Across 2 experiments, students made decisions about when to study, engage in retrieval practice, or stop learning a set of foreign language word pairs. Some students received direct instruction about how to use repeated retrieval practice. These instructions emphasized the mnemonic benefits of retrieval practice over a less effective strategy (restudying) and told students how to use repeated retrieval practice to maximize their performance—specifically, that they should recall a translation correctly 3 times during learning. This minimal intervention promoted more effective self-regulated use of retrieval practice and better retention of the translations compared to a control group that received no instruction. Students who experienced this intervention also showed potential for long-term changes in self-regulated learning: They spontaneously used repeated retrieval practice 1 week later to learn new materials. These results provide a promising first step for developing guidelines for teaching students how to regulate their learning more effectively using repeated retrieval practice.

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