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What will you takeaway from #Eval20 Reimagined? by Sheila B Robinson

Hi #Eval20 attendees…and anyone else who has ever learned something. I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and frequent contributor with a tip for retaining what you learn – whether from a live or virtual event, a book or journal or a hands-on project. We remember a lot of what we’ve learned. Every time we prepare a meal, engage in a favorite hobby, or conduct an evaluation we’re drawing upon an immense repository of skills and knowledge learned over our lifetimes. So why is it often a struggle to. remember what we read or learn from attending conference sessions? Even when the learning feels good – we’re enjoying the reading or captivated by the presentation – forgetting creeps in the minute we close the book or leave the room. Hot Tip: Try retrieval practice. What is retrieval practice? Simply put, it’s testing yourself. The testing effect, known for over a century, has a great deal of support in educational research. Some reframe it as “retrieval practice” in part to separate the assumption that testing is necessarily associated with assessment, high stakes or grades. According to Pooja K. Agarwal, PhD., a leader in retrieval practice and author of Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning,
Retrieval practice is a strategy in which bringing information to mind enhances and boosts learning. Deliberately recalling information forces us to pull our knowledge “out” and examine what we know. https://www.retrievalpractice.org/why-it-works
How is retrieval practice done? The logistics are simple but the practice can be quite challenging. This is called “desirable difficulty” and can actually improve learning. In its simplest form, retrieval practice can be just closing your eyes and asking yourself what you remember about what you’ve learned. You can also do it with blank paper, writing down all you remember. Or, make yourself a set of flashcards to remember vocabulary or key concepts you’ve learned, then test yourself. Whichever way you decide to retrieve, it’s best to do it multiple times at regular intervals, and space out your practice sessions. At first, practice daily, then reduce practice sessions to once a week, twice a month, and eventually less often. Why? Because at some point, you will know the information and be able to recall it easily; it will be integrated with your prior knowledge and safely deposited into your long-term memory. You may find taking notes, highlighting text, and other study strategies helpful (honestly, there’s not a lot of empirical support for them) but the forgetting curve is a more powerful force when you don’t practice retrieving what you’ve highlighted or taken notes on. Retrieval practice boosts learning in many ways, not the least of which is the opportunity to uncover the gaps in your own learning and memory so that you can focus your study and practice more efficiently. Cool Trick: Right now, ask yourself to recall in detail what you learned from your favorite #Eval20 session. How did you do? Did you remember all of the details? Did you also forget a few things? Revisit your notes or watch the recording, then try again. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “What will you takeaway from #Eval20 Reimagined? by Sheila B Robinson”

  1. Hi Sheila,

    Thank you for this post, and for your hot tip on retrieval practice (I had to read back to remember the term!). I think that just by approaching a talk or an article with the intention of using retrieval practice will mean that I will automatically be more focused and will remember more.

    This post made me think about mind mapping and how I did one for a course this semester. It was the first time I had done a mind map, and I wasn’t sure how it would benefit my learning, but I soon figured out that by having to choose key points from my readings and connect them to each other forced me to read my assigned articles with more focus. Retrieval practice seems like a faster strategy that would be similarly effective.

    Thank again,

  2. Thank you Sheila–this post was very helpful and the links provided information about “how to” –always a desired outcome! Ann

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