Long-Term Learning Strategy: Spaced Practice

This is the sixth in a series of posts highlighting classroom strategies that support long-term, profound learning, rather than short-term, superficial learning.  The previous posts are linked below.

Unlike these 5 strategies which focus on how to learn, connect, and remember, this post about Spaced Practice is about when students should intentionally access the specific content.

The calendar below represents a traditional study format that students typically use, solely reviewing information from the prior day.

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 9.52.00 AM

Utilizing Spaced Practice is about changing your mindset from reviewing content from the previous class period alone in a repetitive, one day-to-one day nature.  Spaced Practice includes reviewing information from previous learning experiences ranging from very recent to the quite distant past.  The calendar below shows an example of the content a student may access through Spaced Practice.

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 10.24.49 AM

For example, on the 17th, the student would not only review, seek understanding, and make connections between information gained on the previous day, the 16th.  Rather, the student may look to content presented on the 1st and the 6th, as well the previous three days to make meaning, reach conclusions, and recall relevant information.  The dates on this calendar are arbitrary, presented here as an example for clarification.

It is important to recognize that with Spaced Practice the act of accessing older information is like interval training for the brain.  You must begin to forget in order to have to remember.  That is, Spaced Practice is impactful when you have given yourself enough time to have to make an effort to remember.

You must begin to forget in order to have to remember.

Spaced Practice, like the other long-term learning strategies, must be intentionally taught, modeled, and practiced with students.   Incorporate meta-cognition in the learning experiences so the students are able to think about their thinking.


Aim for many short term study sessions rather than one extended one.  The practice of cramming for exams is the alternative we want to avoid with Spaced Practice.  If you are able to commit 60 minutes to reviewing content, plan ahead for 6 ten minute sessions, or 3 twenty minute sessions, rather than one 60 minute cram session.  Spaced Practice is about intentional, staggered access of information, not one and done re-reading of materials.


In Article V: Organizational Transformation, we recognize the importance of student ownership of learning.  We work toward equipping and empowering students to advocate for, self-manage, and monitor their own learning.  The strategies and tools in this blog series are examples of means to support such learning.  We hold that: V.j Profound learning (owning the knowledge) as opposed to superficial learning (short-term memory) comes more from engagement and commitment than from various forms of compliance, coercion, sanctions, or rewards. 

Want to Learn More?

I encourage you to check out www.LearningScientists.org, including the downloadable content related to Spaced Practice.    In addition, you may access an interview by Jennifer Gonzalez with Megan Smith and Yana Weinstein on her site, Cult of Pedagogy.  These resources served as my own inspiration to explore Spaced Practice.


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