|Problem: The student appears to be forgetful, forgetting homework, forgetting newly learned information, and the like.
Specific retrieval problems
Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue
- Who is reporting the problem?
- When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
- Where does it occur?
- What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
- What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
- What is the age and functioning level of the student?
- Previous documentation/charts?
Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue
In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.
Specific retrieval problems: Some students have difficulty with memory as a result of specific retrieval problems. (See Tutorials on Retrieval; Word Retrieval.)
Relevant observations: The student may do relatively well with true/false or multiple choice type questions, but not free retrieval questions. She may have “tip of the tongue” behaviors (e.g., snapping fingers, saying “I know it”, using words like “whatchamacallit”). She may state that she knows more than she can produce.
Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:
- Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
- Possible retrieval-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorials on Retrieval, Word Retrieval): Create an environment that allows for retrieval-related instructional support. This may include (a) using recognition memory tasks rather than free retrieval tasks (e.g., using multiple choice or true-false tasks); (b) using cued retrieval rather than free retrieval tasks (e.g., providing cues such as phoneme (letter) cues, category cues, related word cues, and the like). In ways such as this, ensure that the student has every opportunity to demonstrate possession of knowledge without having to retrieve it with no cues of any kind.
- If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that the problem behavior is a result of specific retrieval problems. (See Tutorials on Retrieval; Word Retrieval.)
Possible referrals: School psychologist for memory assessment; instructional support specialist for instructional strategies; speech-language pathologist for language assessment