Why you should space and interleave your learning….
It may seem very tempting to leave all your revision to the last minute and just cram it in. But this isn’t the best way to get the most out of your brain.
For about a hundred years psychologists have known that spacing out learning in smaller chunks is better for long-term retention (Edwards, 1917; Gordon, 1925). What do we mean by spacing out learning? Say you have 7 hours spare to revise for a test. You could either spend 7 hours the day before cramming or you could space out your revision to half an hour a day for 2 weeks. In both cases, you would have spent just 7 hours revising. But in the spaced-out case, there is consistent evidence from the psychological literature that spaced learning helps with long-term retention (as confirmed by a recent review: Carpenter, Cepeda, Rohrer, Kang, & Pashler, 2012).
Why might this be? It may help with the survival of your neurons or connections between your neurons in the memory area of your brain – they are used over a longer period of time so that knowledge is worth keeping as you clearly need to know it regularly (Sisti, Glass, & Shors, (2007)). Your brain has developed to be efficient – if something isn’t relevant you tend to forget it fairly quickly.
By spacing out learning to still cover everything it means that you are now interleaving – and interleaving has been shown to help you make links between topics. This, in turn, can help you to make the links between topics to be able to elaborate on them, strengthening the memories even further.
So if we’ve known for around a hundred years that spaced learning is better – why isn’t it more commonly used? The answer is in two parts. Firstly massed or crammed learning feels more like it works better and people believe that it works better (Yan, Bjork, & Bjork, 2016) – unfortunately, it just doesn’t; it often compromises sleep and doesn’t lead to long-term learning. Secondly, spaced learning requires more planning and would be practically hard to do in schools. The curriculum is usually set up to cover each topic only once and there is precious little teaching time to come back and go over content again.
This is where Get My Grades comes in. We have broken the topics down into short content pages which can then be easily spaced out and interleaved with other topics. And we have even taken away your need to plan by developing a recommended assignments feature, designed to help you space your learning – although we’ve gone beyond this to recommend that instead of re-reading our content pages that you space out your learning through testing yourself. This means you can easily space out your learning. But our recommended assignments are even cleverer than that…
Carpenter, S. K., Cepeda, N. J., Rohrer, D., Kang, S. H., & Pashler, H. (2012). Using spacing to enhance diverse forms of learning: Review of recent research and implications for instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3), 369-378.
Edwards, A. S. (1917). The Distribution of Time in Learning Small Amounts of Material. In Colleagues and former students of Edward Bradford Titchener, Studies in psychology contributed by colleagues and former students of Edward Bradford Titchener (pp. 209-213). Worcester, MA, US: Louis N Wilson.
Yan, V. X., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2016). On the difficulty of mending metacognitive illusions: A priori theories, fluency effects, and misattributions of the interleaving benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(7), 918-933.