The value of retrieval

According to the authors of Make It Stick (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014), “We’re easily seduced into believing that learning is better when it’s easier, but the research shows the opposite:  when the mind has to work, learning sticks better.”  One way to make the mind work is through retrieval practice, such as with self-testing.  This, the authors argue, gets more mind-at-work traction than rereading book chapters over and over.

In other words, memorizing the textbook does not make the mind work very hard at all.  Testing yourself will.  And isn’t that the kind of nurse we want to be someday, someone who’s mind works hard (we’d call that critical thinking)?  “Practicing retrieval,” the practice of dredging up information through things like self-testing, according to the same authors, “makes learning stick far better than reexposure to the original text does.”  This retrieval practice needs to be repeated over and over.

So study by testing yourself, repeatedly.  The incredible beauty of it is that it will make you a better test taker because dredging up information is what you do when you take those pesky nursing exams.

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