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Learning Methods: Spaced Learning – Increasing Retention of Information

Continuing on from: Making learning count for our children

Another method of teaching that has been found to increase retention of information learned is Spaced Learning.

What is Spaced Learning?

Bottom Line Performance explained it very succinctly:

Spaced learning is a training technique that involves three 15-20 minute training or learning sessions with two 10-minute breaks between the sessions. In some organizations, the archaic belief still prevails that the longer and more painful a learning session is, the more learning will happen. College students often think they can get the grades the want by “cramming” for hours the night before a test. This simply isn’t the case. Rather than focusing on long periods of learning, we learn better when our brain cells are switched on and off, or with short periods of learning and breaks in between. The key to long-term memory formation is not the amount of time spent learning, but the amount of time between learning. By switching your learner’s brain cells “on” (during learning) and “off” again (during breaks), the learner’s unconscious has time to internalize the knowledge and the repetition results in long-term memories. Research has also shown that longer breaks between teaching sessions can result in longer-lasting memories.

How Effective is Spaced Learning?

Students at Monkseaton High scored up to 90 per cent in a GCSE science paper after one session involving three 20-minute bursts of intensive teaching with slides, interspersed with 10-minute breaks for physical exercise. The “spaced learning” technique produced better results for more than a quarter of students after an hour than they achieved in traditional classes after four months. – TES Connect

Applying Spaced Learning to Education

In Monkseaton High School, spaced learning is used across different subjects and found to be equally successful no matter the subject being taught.

In each of the three intensive sessions of 15-20 minutes teaching, the students are taught the same material but it is presented differently each time to deepen and extend the understanding of the subject. During the 10 minute breaks in between the sessions, the students are given “distracter” activities such as sculpting with Play Doh or playing a sport. It is important that the distracter activity is not related to learning more material because the brain cells need time to carry out the chemical processes to shift the information learned from short term to long term.

For more comprehensive information on implementing Spaced Learning, check out the Spaced Learning Guide.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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