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Practicing a skill or retrieving particular information is more effective when spread over time.
Spaced practice or distributed practice is the idea that practising a particular skill or retrieving particular information is more effective when spread over time, rather than repeated sequentially over a short time period.
Everything that we learn should be practised effectively, or it becomes inaccessible. Therefore, teachers can support their students’ learning by carefully planning units of work and ensuring that they provide students with multiple opportunities to review content knowledge or to practice a new skill. Once information is acquired it should be revisited in increasing spaces, starting with days and weeks, and then spreading out to months and years.
The evidence base for spaced practice dates back to the 1890s when a German psychologist first described the “forgetting curve”. There is strong evidence to suggest that spaced practice is an effective means for supporting memory and learning. There also is a growing evidence base providing practical guidance to teachers for the best techniques and schedules for spaced practice.
When planning a unit of work, teachers should careful map out the knowledge and skills they want their students to develop and make sure that they schedule multiple opportunities for review along the way. Teachers should be actively supporting the review process and also differentiating the learning, making retrieval activities increasingly more challenging over time.
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