spaced-repetition

What is spaced repetition?

Spaced repetition is a technique where individuals review lessons at increasing intervals to memorize information. Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process. Thus, it can be used as a mnemonic technique to transform short-term memory into long-term memory.

Understanding spaced repetition

To understand the idea of spaced repetition, first imagine that you’re a fitness fanatic who wants stronger arms.

To achieve this, you would not walk into the gym and start with 100-pound dumbbells.

You may instead start with the 10-pound dumbbells and allow your body to rest and adjust before moving to something heavier. 

In other words, you would repeat the process and move up to 20, 30, 40, and finally 100-pound dumbbells.

Spaced repetition works in much the same way, except this time, replace stronger arms with increased knowledge and dumbbells with lesson-based information.

This method of learning trains the brain to store information in long-term memory for a longer period of time.

Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process.

Note that the lessons themselves do not need to be identical. What’s important is that a sufficient amount of time passes between each.

When this condition is respected, spaced repetition is far more effective at improving long-term memory than other methods such as rote learning or last-minute cramming.

It also increases the likelihood that the individual not only acquires information but can use it in other contexts.

What is the optimal time between lessons?

The subject of optimal spacing in spaced repetition is somewhat contentious.

In 2014, Polish researcher Dr. Piotr Wozniak developed SuperMemo, the first software-based learning system using algorithms to determine optimal intervals:

  • First repetition (lesson) – 1 day.
  • Second repetition – 7 days.
  • Third repetition – 16 days.
  • Fourth repetition – 35 days.

While there are now many other spaced repetition apps that use increasingly sophisticated algorithms, the intervals they suggest are guides at best.

This is because brain and memory science are rather nuanced and it can be difficult to make specific recommendations that will suit everyone. 

Having said that, the interval can be increased or decreased depending on how easily pieces of information are recalled or learned.

Spaced repetition and Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve

The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is a graphical representation of how information is forgotten with time.

The curve is exponential such that it starts with near-perfect recall on Day 0 before a precipitous drop in retention over the next few days.

After a week or two, the individual will remember very little of the information.

Spaced repetition can be used to recall information at certain times over this period and ensure the forgetting curve never approaches zero.

In other words, spaced repetition forces the learner to review the information stored in their brain before everything is lost. 

As we touched on earlier, our memory becomes stronger when we revisit information after some of it is forgotten.

This idea is explained by the theory of disuse, which posits that well-learned information may be difficult to retrieve from our memory if there is interference from other information or contexts.

To increase our ability to retrieve the right information and make it more accessible, we must be able to recall that piece of information repeatedly. 

Key takeaways:

  • Spaced repetition is a technique where individuals review lessons at increasing intervals to memorize information.
  • Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process. Whilst there is some debate around how much time should pass between lessons, a software-based learning system found that learning on the 1st, 7th, 16th, and 35th days was optimal.
  • Spaced repetition can be used in conjunction with Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve to recall information and ensure the learning curve never approaches the bottom of the graph.

Connected Learning And Growth Frameworks

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

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fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation. Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success. Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

Constructive Feedback

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Constructive feedback is supportive in nature and designed to help employees improve or correct their performance or behavior. Note that the intention of such feedback is to achieve a positive outcome for the employee based on comments, advice, or suggestions.

High-Performance Coaching

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High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership

Training of Trainers

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The training of trainers model seeks to engage master instructors in coaching new, less experienced instructors with a particular topic or skill. The training of trainers (ToT) model is a framework used by master instructors to train new instructors, enabling them to subsequently train other people in their organization.

Active Listening

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Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Active Recall

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Active recall enables the practitioner to remember information by moving it from short-term to long-term memory, where it can be easily retrieved. The technique is also known as active retrieval or practice testing. With active recall, the process is reversed since learning occurs when the student retrieves information from the brain.

Baptism by Fire

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The phrase “baptism by fire” originates from the Bible in Matthew 3:11. In Christianity, the phrase was associated with personal trials and tribulations and was also used to describe the martyrdom of an individual. Many years later, it was associated with a soldier going to war for the first time. Here, the baptism was the battle itself.  “Baptism by fire” is a phrase used to describe the process of an employee learning something the hard way with great difficulty. 

Dreyfus Model

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The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition was developed by brothers Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a learning progression framework. It argues that as one learns a new skill via external instruction, they pass through five stages of development: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

Kolb Learning Cycle

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The Kolb reflective cycle was created by American educational theorist David Kolb. In 1984, Kolb created the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) based on the premise that learning is facilitated by direct experience. In other words, the individual learns through action. The Kolb reflective cycle is a holistic learning and development process based on the reflection of active experiences.

Method of Loci

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The Method of Loci is a mnemonic strategy for memorizing information. The Method of Loci gets its name from the word “loci”, which is the plural of locus – meaning location or place. It is a form of memorization where an individual places information they want to remember along with points of an imaginary journey. By retracing the same route through the journey, the individual can recall the information in a specific order. For this reason, many consider this memory tool a location-based mnemonic.

Experience Curve

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The Experience Curve argues that the more experience a business has in manufacturing a product, the more it can lower costs. As a company gains un know-how, it also gains in terms of labor efficiency, technology-driven learning, product efficiency, and shared experience, to reduce the cost per unit as the cumulative volume of production increases.

Feynman Technique

feynman-technique
The Feynman Technique is a mental model and strategy for learning something new and committing it to memory. It is often used in exam preparation and for understanding difficult concepts. Physicist Richard Feynman elaborated this method, and it’s a powerful technique to explain anything.

Learning Organization

learning-organization
Learning organizations are those that encourage adaptative and generative learning where employees are motivated to think outside the box to solve problems. While many definitions of a learning organization exist today, author Peter Senge first popularized the term in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organisation during the 1990s.

Forgetting Curve

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The forgetting curve was first proposed in 1885 by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist and pioneer of experimental research into memory.  The forgetting curve illustrates the rate at which information is lost over time if the individual does not make effort to retain it.

Instructor-Led Training

instructor-led-training
Instructor-led training is a more traditional, top-down, teacher-oriented approach to learning that occurs in online or offline classroom environments. The approach connects instructors with students to encourage discussion and interaction in a group or individual context, with many enjoying ILT over other methods as they can seek direct clarification on a topic from the source.  Instructor-led training (ILT), therefore, encompasses any form of training provided by an instructor in an online or offline classroom setting.

5 Whys Method

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The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.

Single-Loop Learning

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Single-loop learning was developed by Dr. Chris Argyris, a well-respected author and Harvard Business School professor in the area of metacognitive thinking. He defined single-loop learning as “learning that changes strategies of action (i.e. the how) in ways that leave the values of a theory of action unchanged (i.e. the why).”  Single-loop learning is a learning process where people, groups, or organizations modify their actions based on the difference between expected and actual outcomes.

Spaced Repetition

spaced-repetition
Spaced repetition is a technique where individuals review lessons at increasing intervals to memorize information. Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process. Thus, it can be used as a mnemonic technique to transform short-term memory into long-term memory.

Blended Learning

blended-learning
Blended learning is a broad and imprecise field that makes it difficult to define. However, in most cases, it is considered to be a form of hybrid learning that combines online and offline instructional methods.

VAK Learning

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Lessons Learned

lessons-learned
The term lessons learned refers to the various experiences project team members have while participating in a project. Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects. 

Post-Mortem Analysis

post-mortem-analysis
Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Instructor-Led Training

instructor-led-training
Instructor-led training is a more traditional, top-down, teacher-oriented approach to learning that occurs in online or offline classroom environments. The approach connects instructors with students to encourage discussion and interaction in a group or individual context, with many enjoying ILT over other methods as they can seek direct clarification on a topic from the source.  Instructor-led training (ILT), therefore, encompasses any form of training provided by an instructor in an online or offline classroom setting.

5E Instructional Model

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The 5E Instructional Model is a framework for improving teaching practices through discussion, observation, critique, and reflection. Teachers and students move through each phase linearly, but some may need to be repeated or cycled through several times to ensure effective learning. This is a form of inquiry-based learning where students are encouraged to discover information and formulate new insights themselves.

Related Strategy Concepts: Read Next: Mental ModelsBiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon EffectDecision-Making Matrix.

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