Fostering Learning Retention

By Rachael Brothers

In his 2014 Faculty Focus Article, Helping Students Remember and Use What You Teach, Dr. Tyler Griffin, Associate Professor at Brigham Young University, discusses the issue of material and knowledge retention in the classroom.

Griffin writes, "How often do you hear the following sentiments from students?"

"I won't ever use anything I am learning in this class, but I have to take it to graduate."

"I don't care about this class. I just need a passing grade."

"I can't remember anything I learned in that class."(Griffin 2014)."

This issue comes up in every class in almost every semester. How do you get students to: 1) pay attention to the subject matter and, 2) to retain that material and be able to use it in the future? It's a known fact that your class will not be interesting or groundbreaking 100% of the time. The difference is not necessarily in the material being taught but, rather, the way in which it is being delivered to the class.

One option is to examine the material you are covering to make sure it is relevant and answers their questions sufficiently. When you take the time to make sure your students are understanding the material and its relevance to them, as well as making it meaningful outside of class. Their rate of retention will be higher and students will have a deeper understanding of the material.

Another option is to actively engage students to ensure the material taught in class is memorable. Finding real-world applications/projects for students to apply the material to, ensures they will have to do more than regurgitate facts with rote-memorization.

In conclusion by setting standards that students will be expected to do relevant and projects and be engaged in the classroom, will encourage a more focused and productive learning atmosphere.


Griffin, PhD, T. (2014, July 14). Learning That Lasts: Helping Students Remember and Use What You Teach. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from


Deborah Garrity, PhD TILT Master Teacher Coordinator for College of Natural Sciences Associate Professor- Department of Biology Colorado State University