Make Spaced Learning Work for You
By B Bickham profile image B Bickham
4 min read

Make Spaced Learning Work for You

Spaced learning is a method that includes a combination of repetition, breaks, and physical distractors to retain information. It has long been recognized as one of the most effective ways to learn.

Learning adds more meaning to life. You can accomplish greater things in your personal and professional activities when you understand and remember more of what you encounter. It's enriching to be able to hold onto valuable lessons from all kinds of sources.

Spaced learning is a method that includes a combination of repetition, breaks, and physical distractors to retain information. It has long been recognized as one of the most effective ways to learn. Recently, scientists have made new discoveries that make it work even better. Consider their findings and learn how to apply them for yourself.

Benefits of Spaced Learning

1. Simulate real life. Spaced learning takes place over time and involves repetition. It's more like day-to-day life rather than trying to cram everything into one last minute review before an exam.  When you encounter new information in daily life, you usually hear it more than once. You might read about it, see it on television, and then discuss it with others. This review process helps embed the material in your memory so that you can access it later when you need it.

2. Increase motivation. By giving ourselves repeated exposure to new information, we deepen our appreciation and find more uses for it.  This, in turn, increases our motivation to learn more.

3. Enhance understanding. When we return to material after a break, we often find that we understand it better than when we first encountered it. This is because the time apart gives us a chance to think about the concepts and how they relate to what we already know. We can also fill in any gaps in our knowledge.

4. Benefit from distraction. It may seem counterintuitive, but adding physical distractors to your learning environment can actually help you focus and remember more.  One study found that students who learned while walking on a treadmill remembered more than those who learned while sitting still. Other research has shown that  people who learned while listening to music had better recall than those who didn't have any background noise.

5. Gain more knowledge. Spaced learning helps us to build stronger long-term memories. We retain more of what we see and hear.   As a result, we have more information available to us when we need it.

How to Use Spaced Learning

Now that you know the benefits of spaced learning, how can you put it into practice?  Here are a few ideas:

1. Get a study buddy. A study partner can help keep  you on track and motivated. You can also test each other on material to ensure that you both understand it.

2. Create a schedule. Breaking up your learning into manageable chunks will make it less daunting and more likely that you'll stick with it.  Make sure to allow for breaks between study sessions.

3. Use physical distractors. As long as they don't interfere with your understanding of the material, physical distractions can actually help you focus and remember more.  Consider listening to music or walking while you review your notes.

4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition is key to spaced learning.  Review material several times over a period of days or weeks.  You can also try using different methods of review, such as flashcards or listening to audio recordings.

5. Take practice quizzes. Testing yourself on material will help you gauge your understanding and identify any areas that need more work.  It's also a good way to review for exams.

How to Structure Spaced Learning

1. Design a basic session. The fundamental idea behind spaced learning is dividing data into chunks and studying it for about 20 minutes at a time with periods of repetition and rest. The latest studies suggest 3 repetitions and 2 rest periods are ideal.

2. Take active rests. Take a walk or mop the kitchen floor. Avoid mental activity that would interfere with memory formation, like watching TV or browsing the internet.

3. Be creative about repetitions. Verbatim repetition is fine, but you have many other options. Paraphrase the original information, take a practice test, or engage in a discussion of the main points.

4. Refine your schedule. Consistent intervals also enhance learning. Match your study and rest times so you spend 10 minutes on each. You can experiment with longer periods, but avoid letting too much time lapse between lessons, which could be distracting.

5. Accept a little forgetfulness. Keep in mind that you may have trouble remembering all the details. The struggle to recall specific items actually cements your knowledge. In the long run, you'll develop a better grasp of all the fine points.

How to Apply Spaced Learning

1. Send email reminders. Compose email reminders to send to yourself or others before and after learning new material. Give an introduction and a recap.

2. Attend debriefings. Refresher sessions are a great way to go over previous information. Before returning to your office after a training event, stick around for 10 minutes and review.

3. Create summaries. Write your own summaries when you want to reflect on something. Organize your notes from an initial client meeting or job interview. When you meet again, you'll impress them by responding to every issue they raised.

4. Read books twice. It's okay to go over the same material two times or more. You'll become more fluent each time.

5. Talk with experts. It's a good idea to consult experts before and after you try to master something new. You'll put yourself in a more receptive frame of mind and have an opportunity to ask questions to fill in any gaps.

6. Enjoy online courses. It may take some time for corporate workplaces and the education system to adapt to spaced learning. With internet courses, you can set your own pace. Take advantage of the freedom to study and implement rest breaks to maximize your results.

Retain information by taking a spaced learning approach. Use it for academic courses or any aspect of your daily routine where you want to remember new information.  With a little bit of creativity, you can design a learning system that works for you.

By B Bickham profile image B Bickham
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