Repeated retrieval practice to foster students’ critical thinking skills

Lara van Peppen*, Peter Verkoeijen, Anita Heijltjes, Eva Janssen, Tamara van Gog

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


There is a need for effective methods to teach critical thinking. Many studies on other skills have demonstrated beneficial effects of practice that repeatedly induces retrieval processes (repeated retrieval practice). The present experiment investigated whether repeated retrieval practice is effective for fostering critical thinking skills, focusing on avoiding biased reasoning. Seventy-five students first took a pre-test. Subsequently, they were instructed on critical thinking and avoiding belief-bias in syllogistic reasoning and engaged in retrieval practice with syllogisms. Afterwards, depending on the assigned condition, they (1) did not engage in extra retrieval practice; (2) engaged in retrieval practiced a second time (week later); or (3) engaged in retrieval practiced a second (week later) and a third time (two weeks later). Two/three days after the last practice session, all participants took a post-test consisting of practiced tasks (to measure learning relative to the pre-test) and non-practiced (transfer) tasks. Results revealed no significant difference between the pretest and the posttest learning performance as judged by the mean total performance (MC-answers + justification), although participants were, on average, faster on the post-test than on the pre-test. Exploring performance on MC-answers-only suggested that participants did benefit from instruction/practice but may have been unable to justify their answers. Unfortunately, we were unable to test effects on transfer due to a floor effect, which highlights the difficulty of establishing transfer of critical thinking skills. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that addresses repeated retrieval practice effects in the critical thinking domain. Further research should focus on determining the preconditions of repeated retrieval practice effects for this type of tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number28881
Number of pages15
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (project number 409-15-203). TVG, PV, and AH were involved in the funding acquisition. The funding source was not involved in this study/manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.


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