Reviewing previously learned content is important. So important, in fact, that Rosenshine included it in the first (review learning at the start) and tenth (weekly and monthly reviews) of his Principles of Instruction.
The importance of these reviews shouldn’t be underestimated for three separate, but related, reasons. This blog explores these three reasons, and why regular reviewing is so crucial…
For learning to take place, students need to remember new information, which involves transferring it from working memory into long-term memory.
Working memory is where we hold small amounts of information for a short period of time. However, new content that’s stored in working memory can easily be forgotten, especially when it’s complex. One way to help transfer this content into long-term memory is to revisit it frequently, which will embed it a bit more into students’ memory. Giving your students the opportunity to review what they’ve learned helps support this.
Rosenshine suggests reviewing content daily, weekly, and monthly. For daily reviews, one of his recommendations is to start a lesson with time for your students to reflect on the previous lesson. One possible way to do this could be by incorporating Retrieval Practice. Actively recalling learned material helps your students to strengthen memory traces, which makes information more accessible later on. It also frees up more space in working memory for your students to learn new things without experiencing cognitive overload.
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Weekly and monthly reviews combine Spacing with Retrieval Practice to contribute to long-term knowledge retention. Although both strategies are useful on their own, research has shown that they make a huge impact on long-term memory when used together.
Because misconceptions imbed – Reviews target them
The act of reviewing helps us to target specific component parts, allowing us to identify where in the process students may be going wrong. This is where it is important to emphasise that Rosenshine didn’t necessarily equate ‘review’ with ‘quizzing’. He suggests it also includes correcting homework, and reviewing concepts and skills that students have used. Similarly, he also encourages teachers to ask students to identify points of difficulty, so that these can be supported and practiced.
Daily reviews are the perfect opportunity to overlearn content to prevent your students from recalling faulty information. Thus, reviews allow students to consistently check whether they have misremembered learned material, but they also allow you to check for your students’ understanding. This is crucial, as this is the foundation that they will build future knowledge on.
Because memories change – Reviews correct them
Daily, weekly, and monthly reviews can combat the malleability of students’ memory. Our brains do not store memories like computers store data, as they are susceptible to change. Therefore, by reviewing the content regularly with a teacher, any faulty thinking that has begun to creep in over time can be spotted and corrected in necessary.
When your students inevitably do experience changes in memory, you can help to correct this by using Successive Relearning and Interleaving in your weekly and monthly reviews. Successive Relearning is when students combine Retrieval Practice and Spacing to relearn what they have forgotten. This results in stronger memory traces, making these memories less susceptible to changes.
One final tool that can be useful in your reviews is Interleaving, which involves mixing up concepts within a topic instead of covering them one at a time. One reason why Interleaving works so well is that it allows your students to compare and contrast similar concepts – better understanding their similarities and differences creates stronger memory traces and a solid foundation to build on. Research has shown that Interleaving is highly beneficial for making clearer memory associations, which hopefully makes them less susceptible to changes.
Sometimes reviewing previously covered material can feel like a step back, in particular when there is a lot of content to still cover. However, review shouldn’t be thought of this way. Instead, it should be seen as a fundamental part of the learning process.