Research Apértif: Retrieval Practice, with or without Mind Mapping, Boosts Fact Learning in Primary School Children

According to, an apértif is a small drink of alcoholic liqueur taken to stimulate the appetite before a meal. This research apértif is likewise designed to stimulate your mind’s appetite.

If you enjoy the appetizer, click-through at the bottom of the page for the main course!

Background Research/Lit Review

1. Most experimental evidence for retrieval practice is with adults. Most studies with children have been with children aged 11 and up.
2. Retrieval practice can be effectively incorporated into the curriculum w/ low/no-stakes quizzing . Retrieval practice has been shown to be beneficial for 6th grade students (aged 11-12) performance on delayed exams.
3. retrieval practice has been shown to be effective w/ children aged 6-14 for learning nonsense syllables and biographical material.
4. Retrieval Practice helps with learning fictional map locations compared to ‘study only’ in children aged 9-11
5. Concept mapping can be combined with retrieval practice for better results than concept mapping or retrieval practice alone (undergraduate students)

Experiment Setup

1. Students aged 8-12
2. Used simple mind mapping
3. Cross-factorial design to test effects of retrieval practice and mind mapping and their combination
Experiment 1
1. 109 students
2. The number of facts recorded in the learning phase was significantly related to the final test score
3. Retrieval practice group recalled more facts than the non-retrieval practice group.
4. Mind maps did not improve results for retrieval practice group. But mind maps did improve results for non-retrieval practice group

Experiment 1 Discussion

1. Retrieval practice effect is reliably found in elementary school children
2. Children in retrieval practice group had significantly higher recall after 4 days than the non-retrieval practice group
3. Mind mapping is more effective than note-taking, but less effective compared to retrieval practice. And mind mapping does not improve retrieval practice in elementary aged students.

Experiment 2 Setup (replication of experiment 1)

1. 209 students aged 8-12
2. shorter learning phase, interval between learning and testing phase=1 week
3. Final test after 5 weeks to assess longer-term outcomes

Experiment 2

1. Retrieval practice group recalled significantly more facts than the non-retrieval practice group
2. Retrieval practice alone was more effective than retrieval practice with mind mapping and mind mapping alone after both 1 week and 5 weeks

Experiment 2 Discussion

1. Elementary teachers would benefit their students by including retrieval practice in the curriculum.
2. Retrieval practice improves elementary student fact recall better than mind mapping
3. Mind mapping with retrieval practice does not improve learning in elementary students
4. Retrieval practice groups recalled 8.5% more facts than the non-retrieval group on the final assessment 5 weeks later

Link to Article

Retrieval Practice, with or without Mind Mapping, Boosts Fact Learning in Primary School Children


Ritchie SJ, Della Sala S, McIntosh RD (2013) Retrieval practice, with or without mind mapping, boosts fact learning in primary school children. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78976.