As introduced in the first article of this series, “Mind, Brain and Education,” a new educational theory has been tested and confirmed and is now considered an entirely new discipline used to describe how the brain processes information for later recall: what we refer to as “learning.” Principles of this theory can essentially be distilled into three areas of practice: quality homework assignments, spaced repetition and “retrieval practice.” Having discussed what quality homework assignments entail in our earlier article, we will now explore the theory and process of “spaced repetition.”
A Brief Review: Quality Homework Assignments
The first aspect of the Mind, Brain and Education theory discussed in this series was actually the last aspect to be rolled out for practice in the real world: quality homework. Utilizing principals such as disfluence, interleaving and other means that force a student to think alternatively, the learning process is made more difficult. Despite the increased difficulty of the learning process, this type of lesson markedly improves comprehension, long-term learning and retention. Thus, quality homework assignments are akin to home-cooked food versus a microwaved entree: the easier the preparation, the less “good” it is for the consumer.
The Value of Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition, per Joanne Jacobs’ website Linking and Thinking on Education, is simply “repeated, brief exposure to information.” Despite the best intentions of an all-night cram session, the amount of information learned in such an intense, long block of time is less than that retained secondary to spaced repetition, and the quality of long-term retention is extremely poor. According to Terry S. Kaye of The Behrman House Consulting Group, the technique of spaced repetition has proven particularly helpful in teaching American children Hebrew. Many children in these private school programs have extremely limited class schedules, sometimes as infrequently as one hour per week.
According to the Berman House site, the school’s adoption of Mind, Brain and Education has helped students to learn more of the foreign language with an improved retention rate. In order to offset their limited class meetings, students are expected to engage in short “homework” reviews each evening of perhaps five to ten minutes. According to Ms. Kaye, “[e]xposing students to information repeatedly over time fixes it more permanently in their minds, by strengthening the representation of the information that is embedded in their neural networks.”
Ways of Conducting Spaced Repetitions
The spaced repetition technique of Mind, Brain and Education has been used for centuries by students, using whatever technology they happened to have at hand. Whether the Hebrew alphabet–or any other subject–was practiced by drawing a figure in the sand with a stick, reviewed on index cards or practiced using a smartphone app, the subject is learned at “nearly double” the retention rate of the usual block study methods. According to Annie Murphy Paul’ s article, “The Trouble With Homework,” exposing students to information repeatedly over time helps to embed the material in their neural networks.
Just as the old adage instructs us, “practice makes perfect.” Spaced repetition reassures us that the practice need not be hours long, just frequently conducted.
This guest post is contributed by Lindsey Harper Mac. She can be reached at Harpermac11 (a) gmail.com or @harpermac11.
Tags: brain, education, Hebrew, homework, Joanne Jacobs, Lindsey Harper Mac, mind, spaced repitition, Terry S. Kaye, The Behrman House Consulting Group | 1 Comment »