Retrieval Practice – it’s not all about quizzes

For my latest slides on Retrieval Practice from the ATM & MA London Branch Summer Conference, please see these files:
PowerPoint or pdf

Retrieval Practice is not all about quizzes – low stakes quizzes play an important part but there are many other ways to help your students get the learning out! We spend much time thinking about how to get the learning in – think in your lesson planning how to get the learning out of your students! How can you help them actively recall and apply their learning?

The slides include all the various resources I mentioned including SENECA Learning, a free revision and homework platform, Seneca has applied research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology to provide an engaging environment for students. To answer the question What is Seneca? we can turn to this blog post from Stephen Wilks.

Exam Board specific GCSE content is available, my Year 10 students have tried this and reacted very favourably; this is certainly something I will be using with my students in the coming academic year; the step by step explanations and examples look very helpful indeed. My students certainly liked the AQA Maths sections we looked at – they also strayed into the many other subjects available, liking the content they saw.

Happily, Seneca has just announced that KS3 and A Level courses will also be free – such excellent news.

Join the conversation on the book Make It Stick on Facebook.

If you are looking for particular resources or have questions/suggestions/observations, please contact me.

Highly recommended is the Retrieval Practice website from Dr Pooja K. Agarwal.

Seneca Learning

SENECA Learning

Links to the resources and further reading:

From The Learning Scientists see these valuable resources to support the techniques described here. Note the excellent downloadable materials on study strategies. Each strategy is backed up by research.


Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction‘ provides a very valuable list of research strategies teachers should know about and I believe it is well worth asking ourselves if we are incorporating these strategies regularly into our lessons. This UNESCO pamphlet on the Principles offers further reading and for a very clear summary of these principles of instruction, see from TeachingHOW2s this excellent summary; stick this poster on your walls! (Alternative version – yellow background).
Principles of Instruction
Links and Further Reading

A really useful source of questions which can be used for Aural tests are the mental tests from CIMT; these are included with their resources for Years 7, 8 and 9 and also for GCSE. For Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) scroll down this page for the Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 course material, the resources include mental tests as part of the teacher support material. On the GCSE page scroll down to the teacher support material and note the mental tests available for most units, see this on Formulae for example.

This Custom Starter from Transum allows teachers to select the number of questions and the topics to include; scroll down the page and choose the topics you want from the Concept Selection.
Transum Revision

It is possible to save a particular selection of topics as the URL for your selection will be generated. It is also possible to drag the panels so your questions are displayed in the desired order. The beginning of a lesson can be an ideal time to review previous learning, starters like this can be ideal.

The excellent MathsBot site also provides Starters which can be customised.

Included with Spot the mistake we have excellent resources from Andy Lutwyche, look at his excellent Erica’s Errors series and if we check on TES, these free resources also include plenty of errors from Clumsy Clive! I have found these work really well in class.

A very useful resource is this booklet of sample questions which has been created as part of a project funded by the NCETM on Questioning the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I have tried many of these in the classroom, they really make students think and encourage a deep understanding. Not just for Maths but applicable to any subject I’d recommend very highly the Brighton and Hove Assessment for Learning  project – Questions worth asking. This includes many practical suggestions for the classroom and concludes with a self analysis. The project includes the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy as an aid to thinking about the level of challenge / thinking required for a question.

Further Reading

Retrieval Practice Guides

Guides from

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