Don’t forget!

Remember When…?

Spring break is a great time for forgetting. Students often return from the hiatus seemingly having forgotten much of what we thought they’d learned in the previous eight weeks. To stave off your students’ forgetting, you might want to exercise their memories next week.

Researchers studying a phenomenon called the testing effect have established that “retrieval practice” improves memory and learning (i.e. Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Having to summon new knowledge from memory enhances long-term retention; it’s far more effective than common study strategies like rereading and reviewing notes. Next week, before they leave for break, is an important time to consolidate your students’ learning, and strengthen the neural connections they’re making. You don’t actually have to give a test in order to harness the testing effect: you just need to prompt students to retrieve—and use–the important concepts you need them to learn. Here are a few suggestions for bolstering students’ memories:

Give an (ungraded) recall quiz. The first weeks of class probably seem like a long time ago, but it’s important that students think back to what they were studying then, so they see the connections to what they’re studying now. You can also make this a game, like Jeopardy.     

Try a wrap-up exercise. The same strategies we use at the end of the term, to cement new concepts in students’ knowledge structures, can be useful at midterm as well.  

Have students create a timeline of the course. This is useful not just for prompting students’ memories, but for helping them trace connections amongst concepts and skills. When they have to consider what we did first, and why, they can begin to make meaning of what might be barrage of new content.

Have students create their own study guides. Asking students to determine which concepts are most important (and, as always, why) is good practice in self-regulated learning (Nilson, 2013).

Have students reflect on what they’ve learned so far. You can ask them to identify two or three fundamental concepts they want to use in the future, or think about how they can apply the material in new contexts. This can also prompt them to consider how and why they value what they’re learning.

Give an ungraded quiz after the break, to again practice retrieval.

There’s one very important proviso. Students will remember what we test, so be sure to test the most important concepts. If we quiz on minutiae, students will remember minutiae, at the expense of the major concepts.

Enjoy your own well-deserved break!


Florida State University Libraries will host a one-day Open Education Symposium on March 8th in Strozier Library’s Bradley Reading Room. The symposium is a free professional development opportunity for faculty and students, focused primarily on raising awareness about Open Educational Resources (OER) and their potential to support student success by reducing textbook costs and creating opportunities for open, learner-centered pedagogy.

“This symposium will provide faculty with effective strategies for relieving some of the financial burden on their students, advancing the University’s strategic goal of ensuring an affordable education for all students regardless of socioeconomic status,” said Julia Zimmerman, Dean of University Libraries. “In addition, the symposium will also surface innovative ideas related to open pedagogy, including open assignments that empower students to connect with a global audience, engage with real-world issues, and develop their skills as digital citizens.”

The symposium will feature a number of distinguished speakers, collaborative sessions, panel discussions, and a keynote address from Dr. David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning. Registration is free and participants are welcome to attend the entire event or individual sessions. Participants can also attend remotely via a live webcast. This program is sponsored by FSU’s University Libraries, College of Education, and College of Communication and Information.

For program details and to register or view the live webcast, please visit

There’s also a survey about textbooks, affordability, and OER. You can respond here: