Distributed Practice and Retrieval Practice in Primary School Vocabulary Learning: A Multi-classroom Study

Nicole Goossens*, Gino Camp, Peter Verkoeijen, Huib Tabbers, Samantha Bouwmeester, Rolf Zwaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Distributed practice and retrieval practice are promising learning strategies to use in education. We examined the effects of these strategies in primary school vocabulary lessons. Grades 2, 3, 4, and 6 children performed exercises that were part of the regular curriculum. For the distributed practice manipulation, the children performed six exercises distributed within 1 week (short-lag repetition) or across 2 weeks (long-lag repetition). For the repetition type manipulation, children copied a part of the description of a word (restudy) or recalled the description (retrieval practice). At the end of each week, the children received a cued-recall vocabulary test. After 1 to 11 weeks they received a multiple-choice vocabulary test. Both on the cued-recall test and on the multiple-choice test no benefits of long-lag repetition and retrieval practice were found. These results put into question the practical value of long-lag repetition and retrieval practice in real-life primary school vocabulary lessons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-712
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date6 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Distributed practice
  • retrieval practice
  • vocabulary learning
  • primary school

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