The learning benefits of spaced practice

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You’re about to read something that, in all likelihood, you will forget 80 percent of by next week. If you’re interested in learning how you could change that, keep reading anyway.

In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel write about applying cognitive science to real-world learning. One of the strategies they suggest is spaced practice. Spaced practice is the act of studying information more than once and allowing considerable time in between your exposure to the new content. Why is this practice successful? The authors suggest that spaced practice engages our long-term memory instead of our short-term memory, more strongly connecting new knowledge to existing knowledge and to other recent learning.

As learners, we may feel uncomfortable when we allow a few days to pass before returning to new knowledge. We’re already a little rusty, and it can be frustrating to realize how much we’ve already forgotten. But this is exactly what makes spaced practice effective: when we have to work harder to reconstruct what we’ve learned, we are invoking our long-term memory rather than our short-term memory. The most important ideas become more salient and memorable, and over time, the new learning is cemented into “what we know.”

Here’s a blog entry I found on 8 practical ways to implement spaced practice. Have you tried any of these yourself? What other ideas does this bring up for you?


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