Welcome Back

Helping Students Remember

We hope you’ll return to classes next week refreshed and energized. After a week away (possibly a week full of experiences more intense than classwork), our students, on the other hand, may have begun to forget what they were learning before they left. It can be difficult for them to regain focus after spring break, but we can help to “interrupt their forgetting” by asking them to think back and reconstruct what they learned in the first months of the semester.

Researchers studying a phenomenon called the testing effect have established that“retrieval practice” improves memory and learning (i.e. Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Summoning new knowledge from memory strengthens neural connections and enhances long-term retention; it’s far more effective than common study strategies like rereading and reviewing notes. 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 they still need to be building. 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.
  • 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’ve learned and are learning.
  • 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 a 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).

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.

If you’d like to think more about creating opportunities for retrieval practice, we’re happy to help. We look forward to working with you!


The Center for the Advancement of Teaching is pleased to be partnering with the Critical Thinking Initiative, Florida State University Libraries, and the Oglesby Union for the 2019 Critical Thinking Symposium: Truth and Misinformation in Media from April 1-4, 2019.

We are happy to welcome Glenn Kessler from The Washington Post as this year’s keynote speaker. For a full list of programs, please visit https://criticalthinking.fsu.edu/2019-program/.

We invite you to attend our roundtable and the other events for faculty, postdocs, and TAs!

Roundtable Discussion: Teaching in a Post-Truth Culture

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m., in Westcott 201
Facilitators: Leslie Richardson and Jen Bartman

When it’s becoming increasingly difficult for students—and citizens—to decide what to believe, our responsibilities as college faculty have never been more pressing: If we don’t teach our students to think critically, who will? In this roundtable discussion, we will explore and discuss our current “post-truth” culture, our beliefs about the role of a university in such a time, and what this role means for our teaching, including how we might prepare our students to be savvy citizens and critical consumers of information. All faculty, postdocs, and teaching assistants are welcome to join us for a timely discussion and light refreshments.

Click here to RSVP. Responses are appreciated but not required. Thank you!

Faculty Panel: Critical Thinking Across Contexts

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2:00-3:00 p.m., in Strozier Library Bradley Reading Room
Panel Presentations with Q&A / Moderated by Jonathan Daso

In this panel, three faculty from across the university will discuss how they support critical thinking in the unique contexts of their disciplines and beyond. Arienne Ferchaud, from the School of Communication; Richard Morris, from the School of Communication Science and Disorders; and Marlo Ransdell, from the Department of Interior Architecture and Design will each give a brief talk about their teaching, followed by a Q&A and discussion with the audience.

TA Panel: Critical Thinking in Lower Division Classes

Wednesday, April 3rd, 3:30-5:00 p.m., in Strozier Library Bradley Reading Room
Panel Presentations and Q&A with Program for Instructional Excellence (PIE) Associates: Vivianne Asturizaga (Music), Jeff Conley (Economics), Kate Hill (Biology), Amanda Kowalosky (Psychology), and Joshua Tanis (Music).

A panel of experienced TAs from various disciplines will discuss how they encourage and embed critical thinking in their courses. There will also be time for question and answers.Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required.