Study Strategies: Active Recall

Active Recall is a powerful learning technique that has roots in cognitive psychology and educational research. It involves actively retrieving information from memory rather than passively reviewing materials. This method has been shown to enhance retention, comprehension, and long-term learning outcomes. The Feynman Technique, the Blurting Method and Spaced Repetition are all methods which employ Active Recall.

Understanding Active Recall:

Active Recall is based on the principle that actively retrieving information from memory strengthens memory recall and storage. Rather than simply re-reading or re-watching materials, learners actively engage with the content by attempting to recall it from memory.

How to Use Active Recall:

  1. Choose a Learning Goal: Start by identifying the language concept, vocabulary words, or grammar rules that you want to learn or reinforce.

  2. Recall Without Prompts: Attempt to recall the information from memory without referring to textbooks, notes, or other resources. Close your eyes if necessary to eliminate visual cues.

  3. Review and Reflect: After attempting to recall the information, review the materials to check your accuracy and reinforce your understanding. Pay attention to areas where you struggled or made errors.

  4. Repeat and Space Practice: Practice active recall regularly and space out your study sessions over time. Revisit the same materials at intervals to strengthen memory retention and promote long-term learning.

You might read about the ‘3-Step Active Recall Method’. This refers to steps 2 – 4 mentioned above.

Benefits of Active Recall:

  • Enhanced Retention: Actively retrieving information from memory strengthens memory recall and storage, leading to improved retention of language concepts and vocabulary.

  • Deepened Understanding: Engaging in active recall requires deeper cognitive processing, which leads to a deeper understanding of the material and better comprehension.

  • Efficient Learning: Active Recall promotes efficient learning by focusing on the most critical information and reinforcing learning through repeated retrieval practice.

  • Transferable Skills: Developing strong active recall skills not only benefits language learning but also enhances overall cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and information retention.

Incorporating Active Recall into Your Language Learning Routine:

To incorporate Active Recall into your EFL/ESL learning routine, consider the following tips:

  • Create flashcards or practice questions for vocabulary words, grammar rules, and language concepts.
  • Quiz yourself regularly on the materials using active recall techniques.
  • Use Spaced Repetition to review materials at intervals and reinforce memory retention.
  • Challenge yourself to recall information from memory before checking the answers or referring to study materials.