The 7th R

“The principal benefit of retrieval practice is that it encourages an activeexertion of effort rather than the passive seepage of external information”


The 7th R stands for Retrieval and is represented by the Golden Retriever in the illustration below. (I know – this is a stretch but it’s easy to remember and who doesn’t like to look at a Golden Retriever?)

Retrieval practice is key in the learning retention process.  For trainees and for adult learners alike, being able to remember what was learned is the most important thing. The act of retrieving important information is fundamental to training. If it wasn’t, why do we do safety training at all?

7rs retriever

The ways someone practices to remember or retrieve information can make a big difference in how effective learning actually is. It has been found that reading, highlighting and memorizing information does not cause information to stay in your head as well as learning methods that cause you to come up with the answer. What this means is that instead of having and seeing the information in front of you, your brain will learn and remember better if it is forced to pull out the information already in there.  This is a very simplistic way of explaining some very scientific brain research but I am hoping you get the point. An example or two may help to make this clearer.

Example 1: If you provide trainees with a copy of all PowerPoint slides, they will have all of the training content in front of them. If you provide a worksheet based on the PowerPoint slides with key information left out, and space for the trainee to fill it in, you are causing the trainee to pull that information out and the trainee has to work harder at  remembering. This extra work will cause the information to be retained longer.

Example 2. If you provide the trainees with a multiple-choice quiz, all of the relevant information will be in front of them and they simply have to recognize the correct answer. If you provide a fill-in-the-blank quiz, you are again causing them to think more about what they have learned and this itself will help the learning stick.

Finally, an important concept of retrieval practice is that frequency is more important that duration. It is better to review something more often instead of for longer periods of time.  Think about how you can integrate that idea into your safety training classes. When researching the key ideas associated with retrieval practice, I became fascinated with the idea of flashcards as a training activity and I am currently working on a collection of them to share with other safety trainers. If you want to know when it’ ready,  just comment below or sign-up for the SafetyFUNdamentals Newsletter by clicking here.


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