ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2014, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (2): 279-287.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2014.00279

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Promoting Meaningful Learning through Retrieval Practice: Experimental Evidences and Pedagogical Application

MA Xiaofeng;ZHOU Aibao;CUI Dan;ZHANG Ronghua   

  1. School of Psychology, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2013-05-02 Online:2014-02-15 Published:2014-02-15
  • Contact: ZHOU Aibao


The enhancing effect of retrieval practice on memory retention gained great attention and recognition of researchers in the last decade. To take a step further, researchers have begun to shift their research focus from the impact of retrieval practice on memory retention to its impact on meaningful learning, which is of greater value for teaching practice. This paper firstly makes a review of the supporting evidences from experiments for the enhancing effect of retrieval practice on meaningful learning. The review is centered on three themes: retrieval practice promoting meaningful learning; the advantages of retrieval practice as an evaluation indicator for meaningful learning; the comparison between retrieval practice and other ways of meaningful learning. It then gives an introduction to and contrast between two theoretical hypotheses accounting for the positive impact of retrieval practice on meaningful learning. Next, it makes a summary and analysis of the empirical researches in real classroom on the promoting effect of retrieval practice on meaningful learning. Lastly, it concludes that retrieval practice has more advantages in promoting meaningful learning over repetitive learning and elaborative learning, and that it is worth of and feasible for wide-spread application in educational practice. However, previous studies are subject to the following shortcomings: the evaluation indicator system for meaningful learning adopted in the studies is still singular; the types of knowledge involved in the studies are limited; the other meaningful learning methods chosen to be compared with retrieval practice are not diverse; the theoretical explanations for the internal mechanism of retrieval practice are still of dispute. Therefore, further studies need to be conducted to address the above-mentioned issues.

Key words: retrieval practice, meaningful learning, meaningful material, transfer