Spaced learning to improve the performance of students

We have often heard such statements – “I am not good at math or science.” Yes, there are millions of students who struggle at learning these subjects. However, most of the time, it relates to their learning methods rather than the innate capability of learning. Research suggests that kids might be learning these subjects the wrong way. Karpicke’s study (2012) found that memory deteriorates quickly if the information is not reviewed. Even today, students in educational institutes mass learn’. Students learn a topic in one go and then move onto the next one without much revision. Revision only happens at the time of exams and often involves intensely studying a topic for a short amount of time. When we learn things this way, we retain the information for the exam and then forget it in a few days. That’s the downside of mass learning, which what happens at most of the education institutes. New research suggests that spaced learning, where a topic is studied in short bursts and then reexamined at a later date, is possibly a more effective way of learning and remembering information.

Spaced practice, which is also known as the distributed practice, is a method where the whole course of training is broken into short spells over a long period. This learning strategy provides time to build connections between the ideas and concepts so knowledge can be constructed and easily recollected later.

Now let’s discuss one more critical term called the forgetting curve before going into how spaced learning works. The forgetting curve postulates the decline of memory over time. The stronger the memory of your child, the more extended period that she can recall. It’s not enough to learn it only once to keep it in our minds for a long time. Without frequently reviewing the books/material, there are chances that they may forget everything after some days.

Putting spaced practice method in action:

Learn bit-sized ideas at regular periods: Learning a specific concept of a subject for a short duration is the trick that can help students a lot. You can try learning an idea for 15-25 minutes and then take a small break of 5 min. Then move to a different subject and repeat the same method. You can come back to the same concepts in a few days. This method will help you to retain the information for much longer. When you learn a subject, do not concentrate on cramming, which includes working intensively to absorb significant volumes of information material in a brief period. The primary focus should be on distributing the sessions into shorter sessions so that they don’t feel hectic and learn and understand the course better. Also, after learning a concept when you have diffuse periods when you are no longer learning that topic actively, your brain still keeps on quietly processing that information. It starts relating it to other ideas in the physical world. This process of mixing active and passive learning leads to much better outcomes.

Pause in between a chapter:  It is an excellent idea to ‘pause’ the concept you are currently studying to go back to a topic covered earlier. This approach works well if you carefully plan it for a more extended period. It helps in activating the spaced practice effect.  

Cumulative revision – Building a well-organized and thoughtful revision system helps a great deal. Ensure that after understanding the newer concepts correctly, you go back to revising the older materials regularly as well. If you want to remember subjects for the long term, it is not enough to review them only once. You must examine all concepts multiple times, which is why chapter-based assessments don’t work very well. Evaluations should include ideas from previous units as a significant part. This way, assessment gives you valuable information about your learning. The concepts that you understood correctly and revised multiple times stay with you forever.

Plan a self-study schedule: Using the syllabus as the base, you could create a well-organized program for yourself that includes every subject to study at least once a week. This schedule allows preparing well before the exams and will leave enough time to review it every few days. 

Spaced learning is primarily a brain workout for you, which trains your brain to remember things for longer. 

That’s why spaced learning is very efficient. Eventually, you are not even trying to remember anything but start doing it automatically. 

Therefore, next time when you have enough time to learn a topic, practice using spaced learning. It will reduce pressure on you and also lead to better outcomes. Happy learning!

Team – WinUall

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