Spaced repetition of key ideas

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Learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.

What is spaced repetition?

Spaced repetition is the method of practicing a task over time with larger and larger intervals between practices to establish learning in your long term memory.

An example of this would be if a student learns something new on Day 1, revises it again on Day 2, revises it again on Day 4, then again on Day 10, again on Day 20, again on Day 35 etc. The gap between revising the task in this example has progressed from 1 day, to 2 days, 6 days, 10 days, then 15 days. The longer the time between practising the task, the more effort required, and therefore the more likely that this information will be stored in the student’s long term memory when it is recalled.

This is a very powerful technique that students can easily take advantage of, and yet most school teachers don’t utilise it – instead, they teach in ‘blocks’ whereby topic A is studied one week, topic B the next week and neither are looked at again until the exam comes up.

Why does spaced repetition work?

Learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.

How can this help me be a better tutor?

We recommend that you constantly revise old topics with students at the beginning and end of your lessons. This can be as simple as asking students at the beginning of every lesson: ‘What did we cover in our last lesson?’ or ‘What did you cover in class this week?’, or by giving them a practice question based on material from previous weeks. Similarly, at the end of the lesson you can get them to give you a quick 1-2 minute summary of what they learned in that lesson. Always encourage students to revise old topics. This is extremely important and should be implemented by all tutors.

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