Issue 111: Slow and Steady 🐢
Happy November LSW family!
Tis the time of year to be thankful, and ALL of Intellum sincerely appreciates your loyal readership and community. While the holidays can feel little slower at work, its a great time to dig into learning new things.
This week, we are going to revisit some older articles that you might not have seen! We're answering these questions:
- Does the amount of time between learning materials impact memory?
- Can spaced practice using a flashcard app improve test performance?
Heads up, we will NOT be sending out LSW the week of 11/14 & 11/21. Now let's dig in!
Repetition for Retention? 🧠
Is spaced, repetitive practice with a flashcard app an effective learning strategy?
Multiple studies have supported spaced repetition practice (as opposed to massed exposure to content) as an effective learning strategy, especially for the memorization of factual knowledge. In a recent article, researchers confirmed the efficacy of surgeons’ usage of spaced practice with a small study that found a strong, positive correlation between time spent on a flashcard app program (in this case, Anki) and their final orthopedic surgery examination scores. For each surgeon, the more flashcards were reviewed over time, the higher the score on the final examination.
Key Takeaway: Memorizing factual knowledge? Leverage something like a flashcard app and space the practice sessions over time to help build your memory.
Read More ($): Lambers, A. & Talia, A.J. (2021). Spaced Repetition Learning as a Tool for Orthopedic Surgical Education: A Prospective Cohort Study on a Training Examination. Journal of Surgical Education, 78(1), 134-139.
Totally Spaced Out 🛸
One of the most consistent findings in learning deals with retention - specifically, forgetting happens quite quickly. In the 1800s, Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that forgetting occurs rapidly, within the first 24 hours of learning, and then levels out. This is called the “forgetting curve.” Ebbinhaus’ findings have since been replicated time and time again, consistently illustrating this drop in new information. So, how do we keep that new information we just learned?
The “spacing effect” tells us that creating a system where we learn material over spaced intervals, rather than a “massed” time, leads to higher recall, recognition, and overall memory. The spacing effect is also commonly referred to as “distributed practice,” which we’re huge fans of and cover quite a bit (see LSW Issues 43 & 54)! While the effects of distributed practice have been replicated many times, the researchers on this study wanted to find the optimal interval lengths (Kornmeier, Sosic-Vasic, & Joos, 2022).
In this research paradigm, native German speakers were tasked with learning Japanese vocabulary words. Learners engaged with 5 learning blocks during a “Learning Period.” Essentially learners had 5 sessions of studying/testing, then two final exams. Learners were split into groups that differed in their spacing intervals between learning blocks. Groups were as follows:
- 7.5 minutes
- 4 hours
- 8 hours
- 12 hours
- 24 hours
Finally, all learners completed two final tests, “one 24 h and another one 7 days after the last learning period” (Kornmeier et al., 2022).
Which group forgot the most words? In the 24-hour final test, almost no forgetting occurred for learners with “spacing intervals of either 4, 8, or 13 h[ours],” while the 7.5-minute learners forgot almost 10% of what they learned (Kornmeier et al., 2022). The one-week final test did show forgetting across all groups. However, again, the 7.5-minute learners showed the highest amount with over 30% of words forgotten; all other groups combined showed an average of 12% of forgetting (Kornmeier et al., 2022).
Overall, this study illustrates that spaced learning continues to be best. Specifically, if the retention interval needed is short (i.e., a day or two), then a spacing interval between 4 to 12 hours is ideal. If we want to learn long-term, then longer spacing intervals (up to 24 hours) are better (Kornmeier et al., 2022).
The authors point out that a 12-hour interval seems to work best with our circadian rhythm, but ultimately recommend any interval between 4 and 24 hours, pending how many “learning blocks” need to be completed in a day and individual preferences (Kornemeier et al., 2022).
Key Takeaway: Spacing learning materials is crucial for long-term memory. When learning information, it is best to learn small amounts that are spaced out by at least 4 to 24 hours. Spaced learning promotes better retention of information over a massed learning approach, or over smaller spaced intervals (i.e., less than an hour).
Read More (Open): Kornmeier, J., Sosic-Vasic, Z., & Joos, E. (2022). Spacing learning units affects both learning and forgetting. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 26.
Pets of Learning Science Weekly
Our pet this week comes from our reader, Alexia C.
Velvet is a 5lb, 14-year-old black kitty who really "tests her nine lives." When she isn't playing frogger with passing cars, she is fearlessly standing up to raccoons, dogs, and coyotes.
Alexia says in "her younger years, she roamed the streets of Encinitas going house to house pretending to be their pet for a day or two." Eventually Velvet would become "bored of their food and attempts to 'keep' her as a house pet." Interestingly enough, in the last two years, "she has become an indoor princess. Loving the indoor life and all the cuddles she can get."
Velvet sounds like a joyous handful! Thanks for sharing!
Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send them on in!
Send Us Your Pet Pics
You’re helping us all learn better!
The LSW Crew
Learning Science Weekly is written and edited through the collaboration of the Intellum content and learning science teams.
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