active-recal

What is active recall?

Active recall enables the practitioner to remember information by moving it from short-term to long-term memory, where it can be easily retrieved. The technique is also known as active retrieval or practice testing. With active recall, the process is reversed since learning occurs when the student retrieves information from the brain.

Understanding active recall

Active recall is an effective way to study, memorize, and retrieve information as required.

Imagine you’re studying for a certification exam or want to memorize some key points for a sales presentation.

Instead of underlining the information or reading and then re-reading it, simply close your eyes and try to remember the material without the assistance of cues.

If you can do this successfully, you’ve reached the point of active recall. If not, revisit the information once more, learn it, and try to remember it.

Active recall is based on the premise that the act of retrieving information increases our ability to retain said information. In a 2013 study that analyzed the effectiveness of numerous revision techniques, researchers noted that:

we rate practice testing as having high utility. Testing effects have been demonstrated across an impressive range of practice-test formats, kinds of material, learner ages, outcome measures, and retention intervals.”

How does active recall work?

Most learning techniques advocate that students read information to store in their brains.

With active recall, however, the process is reversed since learning occurs when the student retrieves information from the brain.

The student starts with a list of questions on a topic and tests their ability to answer them repeatedly.

In so doing, they force their brain to retrieve information which provides clarity on their level of comprehension and which areas require more attention.

This process of actively retrieving information from the brain is more effective than passive learning techniques such as reading from notes.

In addition to exam preparation, the ability to answer numerous questions about a topic may also beneficial for careers in healthcare, sales, education, and financial planning.

Active recall techniques

Here are some active recall techniques that respect the idea’s basic premise.

Whiteboard method 

In this technique, the student writes what they know about a topic on a whiteboard, reads the information out loud, turns away from the whiteboard, and tries to recall the information. 

The student then turns back to the whiteboard to verify their level of understanding and repeats the process as many times as needed.

Excel spreadsheet method 

Excel spreadsheets can be used such that the questions are listed in one column and the answers in an adjacent column.

With the answer text color changed to white to make the column invisible, the student can then try to answer the questions. When they answer successfully, they are allowed to change the text color back to black. 

Those who especially love spreadsheets can color cells with green, yellow, and red for correct, partial, and incorrect answers respectively.

Flashcard method

One of the simplest active recall methods where the student writes basic information about a topic on one side of the flashcard and an answer or explanation on the other.

This technique is often used to learn a new language, but it is also effective in other contexts.

Once the student has a basic understanding of the topic in question, they read the explanation side of the flashcard and actively try to recall the word, concept, or topic summary it is associated with.

Some recommend that students create three piles of flashcards based on whether they believe their understanding is low, medium, or high, and devote more time accordingly.

Key takeaways:

  • Active recall is an effective way to study, memorize, and retrieve information as required. The technique is also known as active retrieval or practice testing.
  • With active recall, learning takes place when the student retrieves information from the brain. The student starts with a list of questions on the topic and tests their ability to answer them repeatedly, which clarifies their level of understanding and identifies areas for improvement.
  • There exist numerous active recall methods that respect the technique’s underlying premise. These include the whiteboard, flashcard, and Excel spreadsheet methods.

Connected Learning And Growth Frameworks

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset
fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation. Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success. Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

Constructive Feedback

constructive-feedback
Constructive feedback is supportive in nature and designed to help employees improve or correct their performance or behavior. Note that the intention of such feedback is to achieve a positive outcome for the employee based on comments, advice, or suggestions.

High-Performance Coaching

high-performance-coaching
High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership

Training of Trainers

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The training of trainers model seeks to engage master instructors in coaching new, less experienced instructors with a particular topic or skill. The training of trainers (ToT) model is a framework used by master instructors to train new instructors, enabling them to subsequently train other people in their organization.

Active Listening

active-listening
Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Active Recall

active-recal
Active recall enables the practitioner to remember information by moving it from short-term to long-term memory, where it can be easily retrieved. The technique is also known as active retrieval or practice testing. With active recall, the process is reversed since learning occurs when the student retrieves information from the brain.

Baptism by Fire

baptism-by-fire
The phrase “baptism by fire” originates from the Bible in Matthew 3:11. In Christianity, the phrase was associated with personal trials and tribulations and was also used to describe the martyrdom of an individual. Many years later, it was associated with a soldier going to war for the first time. Here, the baptism was the battle itself.  “Baptism by fire” is a phrase used to describe the process of an employee learning something the hard way with great difficulty. 

Dreyfus Model

dreyfus-model-of-skill-acquisition
The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition was developed by brothers Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a learning progression framework. It argues that as one learns a new skill via external instruction, they pass through five stages of development: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

Kolb Learning Cycle

kolb-reflective-cycle
The Kolb reflective cycle was created by American educational theorist David Kolb. In 1984, Kolb created the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) based on the premise that learning is facilitated by direct experience. In other words, the individual learns through action. The Kolb reflective cycle is a holistic learning and development process based on the reflection of active experiences.

Method of Loci

method-of-loci
The Method of Loci is a mnemonic strategy for memorizing information. The Method of Loci gets its name from the word “loci”, which is the plural of locus – meaning location or place. It is a form of memorization where an individual places information they want to remember along with points of an imaginary journey. By retracing the same route through the journey, the individual can recall the information in a specific order. For this reason, many consider this memory tool a location-based mnemonic.

Experience Curve

experience-curve
The Experience Curve argues that the more experience a business has in manufacturing a product, the more it can lower costs. As a company gains un know-how, it also gains in terms of labor efficiency, technology-driven learning, product efficiency, and shared experience, to reduce the cost per unit as the cumulative volume of production increases.

Feynman Technique

feynman-technique
The Feynman Technique is a mental model and strategy for learning something new and committing it to memory. It is often used in exam preparation and for understanding difficult concepts. Physicist Richard Feynman elaborated this method, and it’s a powerful technique to explain anything.

Learning Organization

learning-organization
Learning organizations are those that encourage adaptative and generative learning where employees are motivated to think outside the box to solve problems. While many definitions of a learning organization exist today, author Peter Senge first popularized the term in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organisation during the 1990s.

Forgetting Curve

forgetting-curve
The forgetting curve was first proposed in 1885 by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist and pioneer of experimental research into memory.  The forgetting curve illustrates the rate at which information is lost over time if the individual does not make effort to retain it.

Instructor-Led Training

instructor-led-training
Instructor-led training is a more traditional, top-down, teacher-oriented approach to learning that occurs in online or offline classroom environments. The approach connects instructors with students to encourage discussion and interaction in a group or individual context, with many enjoying ILT over other methods as they can seek direct clarification on a topic from the source.  Instructor-led training (ILT), therefore, encompasses any form of training provided by an instructor in an online or offline classroom setting.

5 Whys Method

5-whys-method
The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.

Single-Loop Learning

single-loop-learning
Single-loop learning was developed by Dr. Chris Argyris, a well-respected author and Harvard Business School professor in the area of metacognitive thinking. He defined single-loop learning as “learning that changes strategies of action (i.e. the how) in ways that leave the values of a theory of action unchanged (i.e. the why).”  Single-loop learning is a learning process where people, groups, or organizations modify their actions based on the difference between expected and actual outcomes.

Spaced Repetition

spaced-repetition
Spaced repetition is a technique where individuals review lessons at increasing intervals to memorize information. Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process. Thus, it can be used as a mnemonic technique to transform short-term memory into long-term memory.

Blended Learning

blended-learning
Blended learning is a broad and imprecise field that makes it difficult to define. However, in most cases, it is considered to be a form of hybrid learning that combines online and offline instructional methods.

VAK Learning

vak-learning-styles-model

Lessons Learned

lessons-learned
The term lessons learned refers to the various experiences project team members have while participating in a project. Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects. 

Post-Mortem Analysis

post-mortem-analysis
Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Instructor-Led Training

instructor-led-training
Instructor-led training is a more traditional, top-down, teacher-oriented approach to learning that occurs in online or offline classroom environments. The approach connects instructors with students to encourage discussion and interaction in a group or individual context, with many enjoying ILT over other methods as they can seek direct clarification on a topic from the source.  Instructor-led training (ILT), therefore, encompasses any form of training provided by an instructor in an online or offline classroom setting.

5E Instructional Model

5e-instructional-model
The 5E Instructional Model is a framework for improving teaching practices through discussion, observation, critique, and reflection. Teachers and students move through each phase linearly, but some may need to be repeated or cycled through several times to ensure effective learning. This is a form of inquiry-based learning where students are encouraged to discover information and formulate new insights themselves.

Related Strategy Concepts: Read Next: Mental ModelsBiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon EffectDecision-Making Matrix.

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