How Retrieval Attempts Affect Learning: A Review and Synthesis

  title={How Retrieval Attempts Affect Learning: A Review and Synthesis},
  author={Nate Kornell and Kalif E. Vaughn},

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Retrieval Practice Benefits Deductive Inference
Retrieval practice has been shown to benefit learning. However, the benefit has sometimes been attenuated with more complex materials that require integrating multiple units of information.
Benefits of memory retrieval for vocabulary learning: A neurocognitive perspective
The work described in this dissertation is an attempt to gain insight into practice conditions that lead to effective vocabulary learning in a foreign language, and in particular, into the benefits
Retrieval Potentiates New Learning: A Theoretical and Meta-Analytic Review
A quantitative review of the literature showed that testing reliably potentiates the future learning of new materials by increasing correct recall or by reducing erroneous intrusions, and several factors have a powerful impact on whether testing potentiates or impairs new learning.
The effect of unsuccessful retrieval on children's subsequent learning.
Prior episodic learning and the efficacy of retrieval practice
Results support the hypothesis that the advantage of testing over restudy is independent of the degree of prior episodic learning, and they suggest that educators can apply cued-recall testing with the expectation that its efficacy is similar across varying levels of prior content learning.
The Direct Testing Effect Is Pervasive in Action Memory: Analyses of Recall Accuracy and Recall Speed
Repeated retrieval practice, relative to repeated restudy and study-only practice, reduced the recall decrement over the long delay, and enhanced phrases’ recall speed already after 2 min, and this independently of type of encoding and recall test.
Memory updating after retrieval: when new information is false or correct
This research suggests retrieval facilitates incorporation of new, related information, regardless of whether it is false or correct, as measured by later recall in a follow-up test.
Enhanced memory for context associated with corrective feedback: evidence for episodic processes in errorful learning
A higher rate of memory accuracy was observed for context associated with corrective feedback relative to other conditions across all 3 experiments, consistent with the hypothesis that errorful learning involves episodic memory, not merely semantic mediation.
Adding the keyword mnemonic to retrieval practice: A potent combination for foreign language vocabulary learning?
It is suggested that incorporating effective encoding techniques prior to retrieval practice could augment the effectiveness of retrieval practice, at least for vocabulary learning.


Retrieval attempts enhance learning, but retrieval success (versus failure) does not matter.
It appears that retrieval attempts promote learning but retrieval success per se does not, and a 2-stage framework to explain the benefits of retrieval is proposed.
The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention
Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning.
It is demonstrated that retrieval attempts enhance future learning; it is suggested that taking challenging tests-instead of avoiding errors-may be one key to effective learning.
The pretesting effect: do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning?
The authors examined the effect of unsuccessful retrieval attempts on learning by reading an essay about vision and found that posttest performance was better in the test condition than in the extended study condition in all experiments--a pretesting effect.
Attempting to answer a meaningful question enhances subsequent learning even when feedback is delayed.
  • N. Kornell
  • Psychology
    Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition
  • 2014
These findings may give comfort to educators who worry that asking a question or giving a test, on which students inevitably make mistakes, impairs learning if feedback is not immediate, and suggest that there is a consensus in the literature thus far: Questions with rich semantic content enhance subsequent learning even when feedback is delayed, but less meaningful questions without an intrinsic answer enhance learning only when Feedback is immediate.
Toward an episodic context account of retrieval-based learning: dissociating retrieval practice and elaboration.
Analyses of correct recall, intrusions, response times, and temporal clustering dissociate retrieval practice from elaboration, supporting the episodic context account.
When and why do retrieval attempts enhance subsequent encoding?
The results support the idea that a search set of candidates related to the retrieval cue is activated during retrieval and that this retrieval-specific activation can enhance subsequent encoding of those candidates.
Optimizing schedules of retrieval practice for durable and efficient learning: how much is enough?
On the basis of the overall patterns of durability and efficiency, the prescriptive conclusion for students is to practice recalling concepts to an initial criterion of 3 correct recalls and then to relearn them 3 times at widely spaced intervals.