Spaced Practice

What is the source?

What's the big idea?

Spaced Practice (a.k.a.distributed practice) says a little bit and often is a more effective approach to learning than lumpy 'massed practice' . See also 'interleaving'.

What is their background?

Learning Pool are a commercial enterprise with a product to sell, but the research summary is pretty sound and the sales pitch is toward the end of the pdf.

What are they saying?

A useful summary of the research about memory and learning in relation to the way that content is spaced and interleaved.
The pdf is attached above, but the collective commons licence is on a non-modification basis, so I'm not going to excerpt it here, just invite you to read it yourself.

Where can I learn more?

The excellent book 'Make it Stick' Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) contains a very readable introduction to this memory science in relation to classroom teaching. The authors have created a generous interactive Make it Stick website too.
The Monkseaton school publication 'Making Learning Stick' explores their approach and experience:
It's a bit odd in places, but you might also look at 'The Most Important Graph in the World', Buzan. See also the accompanying MIG website.

What next?


Explain what relevance this has to us:
  • How will this change your practice?
    • we are using spaced practice and interleaving in our year 11 form-time tasks
    • some colleagues are using justmaths worksheets to generate useful mixed topic starter tasks for lessons
      • (!) someone should download these and save them somewhere safe (!)
    • our schemes of learning have some interleaving and distributed practice built in
      • but we could/should enlarge this
  • What do you or we need to do differently to make use of this idea?
    • think about worksheet design
    • carefully plan starter tasks to recap and pre-shadow
    • revisit schemes and shuffle tasks/topics if necessary
  • How will it improve learning?
    • our learners often perform far better in class than on the exam: it's a reasonable hypothesis that a significant factor in that is that they can't recall what they've attempted to memorize; improving access to skills and techniques that have been previously practiced should improve performance

Pay particular attention to the last question: if you can't see how it improves learning, say so.