According to Harvard, there are two strategies which can transcend a student’s abilities or grade level: retrieval practice, in which students actively receive information from memory, and spaced practice, in which students study the information given in class over a few days, weeks, or even months. Notably, Mr. Harvard’s students who engage in spaced learning have demonstrated a higher retention rate of the material.
Such practices are commonplace in two-way immersion (TWI) programs since dual language learners engage in spaced and retrieval practice every day. TWI requires students to engage in language retrieval (of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax) of both their native and non-native language in multiple contexts (i.e. different academic subjects); additionally, TWI instructs students to read, write, speak, and understand these languages on a daily basis. Thus, when a TWI program is practiced with fidelity, a dual language learner should engage in spaced and retrieval learning a majority of their academic career. Our students at TWIN-CS, who practice these learning strategies through their multilingual classes and multicultural environment, exemplify Mr. Harvard’s concepts of spaced and retrieval learning.
Multilingual students, like our students in TWIN-CS, exhibit the long-term benefits of two-way immersion program: empathy and perspective, higher executive functioning, better school performance and engagement, prevention against cognitive decline, and inclusion of other cultures. And let’s not forget, they’re multilingual! Consequently, TWIN-CS not only reflects the cognitive learning strategies that Mr. Harvard enumerates, but our students are proof that these strategies are successful in long-term learning!
For example, when I first began taking full-immersion classes in Italian, I would often find myself consciously working to find vocabulary for classroom discussion (i.e. retrieval practice), but soon after I began code-switching without really thinking about it; code switching exemplifies an ability to recognize forms of sentence structure and concepts across multiple languages. My ability to code switch (and my bilingualism) is a result of years of spaced and retrieval learning.
Mr. Harvard reminds us that there are other learning strategies with similar objectives, but that with these two particular practices, “There’s less anxiety about assessments [for the students] since they occur so frequently. And students are much more accepting of getting questions wrong because that’s simply part of the learning process and helps them to have a truer assessment of their learning.”
At TWIN-CS, our foremost ambition can be found in providing students a healthy environment in which they can learn beyond a monolingual, monocultural world. Mr. Harvard’s learning practices not only demonstrate a positive development of a child’s academic learning, as implemented and reflected in TWI programs, but also reveals that such spaced and retrieval learning can foster social and emotional wellbeing. Because students are not afraid to be wrong, educators can more correctly assess learning in the classroom.
We hope to share more theories and research of educators from around the world, learning from each other as always!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Research Assistant