Retrieval Practice Is a Efficient Method for Enhancing the Retention of Anatomy and Physiology Course Information

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Advances in Physiology Education




Retrieval practice is an efficient method of enhancing the retention of anatomy and physiology information. Adv Physiol Educ 37: 184 –191, 2013; doi:10.1152/advan.00174.2012.—Although a great deal of empirical evidence has indicated that retrieval practice is an effective means of promoting learning and memory, very few studies have investigated the strategy in the context of an actual class. The primary purpose of this study was to determine if a series of very brief retrieval quizzes could significantly improve the retention of previously tested information throughout an anatomy and physiology course. A second purpose was to determine if there were any significant differences between expanding and uniform patterns of retrieval that followed a standardized initial retrieval delay. Anatomy and physiology students were assigned to either a control group or groups that were repeatedly prompted to retrieve a subset of previously tested course information via a series of quizzes that were administered on either an expanding or a uniform schedule. Each retrieval group completed a total of 10 retrieval quizzes, and the series of quizzes required (only) a total of 2 h to complete. Final retention of the exam subset material was assessed during the last week of the semester. There were no significant differences between the expanding and uniform retrieval groups, but both retained an average of 41% more of the subset material than did the control group (ANOVA, F=129.8, P= 0.00, np2 0.36). In conclusion, retrieval practice is a highly efficient and effective strategy for enhancing the retention of anatomy and physiology material.