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How Retrieval Practice can help your students with ADHD

How Retrieval Practice can help your students with ADHD

3 min read
  • Retrieval Practice

When you think of revision techniques, what comes to mind? Retrieval Practice, Interleaving, blocking, testing… Whilst these may be effective for most students, not all of them might work for students with ADHD.

The inattention and hyperactivity that are common symptoms of ADHD can lead to extreme difficulties when studying and ultimately, negatively impact the academic progress of these students. In recent years, researchers have begun to examine how to use specific, effective revision techniques for students with ADHD, with a focus on Retrieval Practice.

So, can students with ADHD benefit from Retrieval Practice?

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that commonly affects children. In the UK, ADHD affects around 3-5% of children. Some of the symptoms include lack of focus, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. These can become quite severe and cause difficulties for the child in school and beyond. A student with ADHD may daydream a lot in class and make careless mistakes, which can put a strain on their relationships in the classroom, and negatively impact their schoolwork.

Research shows that students with ADHD are more likely to experience academic difficulties. It can be especially difficult for them to keep up with the pace of the classroom. Whilst there are many ways for teachers to help these students face-to-face, when it comes to revising at home, students may struggle. The revision strategies that work well for most students will not necessarily work the same for those with ADHD. This means that it is important for us to continue to explore what revision techniques work best for students with ADHD. For example, how to help students with ADHD by using retrieval practice.

What is Retrieval Practice?

Retrieval Practice is a revision technique that requires the learner to recall and answer to a question about something that they already know. This deliberate attempt at recalling information can create stronger memory traces and increase the chances of this information being transferred to the long-term memory stores. This practice is also useful when determining the progress of your revision. If you can’t answer a question from memory, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do it in an exam!

Testing yourself through Retrieval Practice is one of the best revision strategies because it forces you to think about what you do and don’t know. Research suggests that students are often unaware that the technique can enhance their memory and use it to simply monitor their progress during revision. Retrieval Practice is also particularly useful because it can be used to prepare students for exam conditions. The act of testing yourself can help students develop exam strategies that work best for them.

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What does the research say about Retrieval Practice for ADHD students?

Studying can be a daunting task for any student, but more so for those with ADHD. A study was conducted recently to examine if those students could benefit from retrieval practice. The sample consisted of 58 students with ADHD and 121 students without.

All students were asked to learn key definitions by using retrieval practice. During the retrieval practice, only the key term appeared on the screen and the participant was asked to type out a definition. This prompted them to recall the information they had studied in the previous stage.

After one week, all participants were assessed and the findings showed that both groups of students expressed high levels of recall and recognition, regardless of their diagnosis. It was also suggested that both students with and without ADHD were able to use retrieval practice and feedback in similar ways. The researchers therefore support the recommendation that students with ADHD should use retrieval practice as an effective revision technique to help them avoid falling behind.

Final thoughts

ADHD can have many negative effects on a student’s school life, from lowering their focus in the classroom to making it difficult for them to revise like other students. It is for this reason that research in this area is especially important. And as such, knowing that students with and without ADHD can effectively learn using retrieval practice will not only help the students to learn more effectively, but may also help teachers and support staff plan learning activities better too.

Learn everything you need to know about retrieval practice in our online teacher CPD course.