"Our view is that learning is not about studying or getting knowledge 'in memory,'" said Purdue psychology professor Jeffrey Karpicke, the lead investigator for the study that appears January 20 in the journal Science. "Learning is about retrieving. So it is important to make retrieval practice an integral part of the learning process."

Deux cent étudiants ont participé à l'expérience : "One group engaged in elaborative study using concept maps while a second group practiced retrieval; they read the texts, then put them away and practiced freely recalling concepts from the text. After an initial study period, both groups recalled about the same amount of information. But when the students returned to the lab a week later to assess their long-term learning, the group that studied by practicing retrieval showed a 50 percent improvement in long-term retention above the group that studied by creating concept maps."

Jeffrey Karpicke "found that when students have the material right in front of them, they think they know it better than they actually do. "It may be surprising to realize that there is such a disconnect between what students think will afford good learning and what is actually best. We, as educators, need to keep this in mind as we create learning tools and evaluate educational practices," he said."

"The final retention test was one of the most important features of our study, because we asked questions that tapped into meaningful learning," said Karpicke. The students answered questions about the specific concepts they learned as well as inference questions asking them to draw connections between things that weren't explicitly stated in the material. On both measures of meaningful learning, practicing retrieval continued to produce better learning than elaborative studying."

"Karpicke says there's nothing wrong with elaborative learning, but argues that a larger place needs to be found for retrieval practice. "Our challenge now is to find the most effective and feasible ways to use retrieval as a learning activity – but we know that it is indeed a powerful way to enhance conceptual learning about science.""

Sources : "Learning Science : Actively Recalling Information from Memory Beats Elaborate Study Methods", ScienceDaily, 21/01/11 ; "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping", Jeffrey D. Karpicke, Janell R. Blunt, Science, 20/01/11.