A Guide to Improving Learning Retention Among Students

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Author: Leslie Sherman Published on: Nov. 14, 2019 Expected Reading Time: 5 mins


As a teacher, it may often seem like much of what you teach your students go in one ear and right out the other. This, however, isn’t necessarily the fault of your pupils. Most people struggle to retain what they have learned over a period of time. 

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to accept this state of affairs. There is actually quite a bit you can do to help your students remember what they have learned. Below, you will discover the best steps for you to take as a teacher: 


Create Hyper-Specific Learning Objectives 


Now, learning objectives would be nothing new to you. This is a strategy that virtually every teacher relies on. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to reconsider your lesson goals. In particular, evaluate the specificity of these aims. 

In many instances, teachers set objectives that are rather general. Thus, students aren’t always certain of the precise goals of a lesson plan. Naturally, this dilutes the effectiveness of the lesson quite a bit. So, you may want to change your learning objectives first. 

Try to determine exactly what you want your students to take away from a lesson. Make a note of these – the more specific they are, the better. Then, construct your lesson plan so that you meet each of these objectives. 

For more inspiration, check out this handy guide on how to create effective lesson plans by Scholastic https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/new-teachers-guide-creating-lesson-plans/


Weave a Story 


What are you most likely to remember – a random fact that someone has mentioned or a story that they have told you? As with most individuals, you are more likely to recall the story. This is simply the way that humans are designed and your students are the same. 

So, think about how you teach your lessons for a moment.

Are you simply repeating facts and figures? In this case, you will be hard-pressed to find a student who is going to remember what you are saying for too long.


However, if you make an effort to turn the subject matter into a story, you will hold their attention more effectively. And, as a direct consequence, you will be able to help them retain certain elements better as well. 


Repeat the Lessons at Intervals 


The average student studies multiple subjects during the day. In addition to this, they also have to deal with extracurricular activities and social entanglements. Thus, it is little wonder that they forget the majority of their lessons. 

Fortunately, there is a way to overcome this issue – spaced repetition. It is important to cover a particular section over and over again, at various intervals. Now, obviously, you can’t repeat the entire lesson. However, with the help of your specific learning objectives, you will know which points to focus on. 

Even if you can’t practice this for every lesson, try to do it for more important or complex concepts. This will make it easier for students to grasp the elements of these lessons. In turn, they will be more likely to remember the key points as well. 


Create a Real-World Connection 


One of the reasons that students may not be motivated to learn a particular topic is because they simply don’t see the relevance. As they don’t deem the subject matter important, they are much less likely to retain what they are learning. So, as a teacher, you need to prove to them that the material is relevant.

There are a number of ways you can do this. For instance, you can use a real-world problem to show students how their lessons can be used to solve the issue. Or, you can get the students to physically or theoretically apply a concept to deal with the world around them. 

Once you – and your students – are able to make this connection, the concept will be a lot easier to grasp. Not to mention, since they have had to actively interact with a particular theory, the details will automatically stick in their minds. 


Encourage Practice Within a Framework 


At the end of the day, one of your goals as a teacher is to help your students pass certain exams. So, borrowing from the point made above, you need to put students in situations that are similar to their tests. This will give them some idea of how to prepare for such exams. 

While this may sound rather complicated, there are tools to make it easier. Educational sites like TestMaxPrep allow students to prep and learn within a specific framework. Due to this, students are able to retain key concepts since they have to apply the information they have learned for a practical purpose. 


Encourage the Art of Note-taking 


There has been some debate over note-taking in class. Some educators feel that it can distract students from the lesson since they are so focused on taking down what is being taught. However, note-taking does have its place in the classroom. 

When students physically write down notes, they are able to remember what they have learned a little better. This is because there are multiple parts of the brain engaged when pupils jot down key concepts. As a result, they are a great deal more likely to retain what they are studying. 

As a teacher, it is important to create a more structured environment for note-taking. For example, make sure that the students are focused while you are explaining a topic. Then, give them time to take down notes, while you repeat the main concepts. This way, they will be getting the best of both worlds. 


In summary 

There are many different ways that you can improve learning retention among your students. You simply have to be willing to explore new avenues of teaching. If you do decide to adopt any of the strategies above, you can be certain that you are on the right track. 

In fact, for the best results, try to incorporate two or more of these tactics into your lesson plans. You will be able to notice that your students’ retention rates will be improving by leaps and bounds. Thus, this is definitely something that you should try out for yourself. 


Author Bio: 

Leslie Sherman has been a teacher for over two decades. During this time, she has experimented with various learning strategies to determine which ones are most effective. This experience has allowed her to construct teaching tactics and lesson plans that are well-suited to a variety of students. 


Further Reading 

How to Measure Student Progress

How to Deliver Your Best Lessons in 2019

7 Teaching Skills That Every Teacher Should Know

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