Dan Willingham Salt and Pepper questions
Dan Willingham Salt and Pepper questions

Dan Willingham Salt and Pepper questions

My continued exploration of Metacognition led to “In conversation with Professor Paul Kirchner” and then Dan Willingham’s “How to help students ‘know’ they know.”

The two crossovers to RememberMore – Overlearning – check. Then question formats, learning A to B and back again with B to A.


The more I teacher with RememberMore, the more convinced I am that retrieval practice is the beneficiary of metacognitive adjustments. The more time invest into Success Relearning the more I see the benefit of over learning.

One key point Willingham made was to focus on “over-learning.” To ensure students really know something, revisit that learning. To avoid merely re-reading, but to go over the same thing again and again. Now, I would add, there needs to be space between those agains – if you want to benefit from forgetting too. The space with also help mitigate the drawback Willingham highlights:

The big drawback is motivation. It’s not fun to keep practising something that you feel like you already know and when you’re ready to move on to something else.”

Dan Willingham

In fact, do move on, and come back to it, at an optimal time – that is the premise of RememberMore. He then also highlights interleaving, naturally.

Salt and Pepper Questions

In RememberMore we have four modes. Retrieval prompt pairs are written to be retrieved AB and BA. Until listening to Dan Willingham this morning, I had found it hard to justify and sometimes explain why we had built in this flexibility to RememberMore. Willingham explains the value of learning both AB BA formats, or 6*7 and 7*6 , with the salt and pepper analogy. I hope he doesn’t mind, I will be borrowing that explanation and title going forward.

A common one used is ‘salt and pepper’ – if you ask people what’s the first thing you think of when I say the word ‘salt’, then a very high proportion of people will say ‘pepper’. But if you say ‘what’s the first thing you think of when I say pepper?’ very few people say ‘salt’ and people say things like ‘hot’ or ‘chilli’ or something like that.

Dan Willignham

A second example, “What year was the Battle of Hastings?” Easy – 1066, but if asked, “What happened in 1066?” and finding the answer is far more difficult. It is the exact the reason why the RememberMore was designed the way it was, with both AB and BA modes, by students, who recognised this very aspect of their learning. I can’t wait to tell them!

Yes – it makes writing the retrieval prompt pair a little trickier, however the cards are much more versatile.

What year was the Battle of Hastings?The battle was in 1066.
The battle was in 1066?What year was the battle of Hastings?

Explaining to students that this is the way your memory works, and it’s kind of quirky and peculiar…can be really helpful.

Dan Willingham

Willingham suggests teachers should be willing to discuss this idea with students to ensure they think about learning key facts and ideas in more way than one and they could also use CRM for free.

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  1. Pingback: Pepper and salt questions | KristianStill

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