Spaced Learning

A lot has been written in the educational press recently about the concept of “spaced learning”. This is the notion that pupils seem to learn best when they are taught in bursts, separated by distraction activities. It is more than just another education theory, as it is being implemented in a number of schools, perhaps most notably in Monkseaton, in Tyneside. The Head there has read the research and seems to believe that this method can deliver real and lasting improvement. The basic structure of a spaced learning lesson involves three “stimulations” separated by two 10 -minute gaps. The research seems to indicate that such a structure significantly improves the way the brain processes then internalises and memorises information.
I am interested in any kind of educational model that can be demonstrated to improve learning; I particularly like the idea of formative assessment (Assessment for Learning) but wonder if AfL has disappeared from current statements on assessment. Where, for example,  is the familiar little yellow triangle symbol for AfL in the new Education Scotland web page on assessment?

So, I’d like to drill down into the notion of spaced learning, and ask a few questions:

1. What is the research evidence for this approach? What are the criticisms?
2. Is spaced learning particularly suited for a specific age and stage?
3. How is this style of learning coordinated at school level, ie who decides the proportion of spaced learning lessons per year group/ per subject.
4. Does spaced learning work better with some subjects than others?
5. Does spaced learning suit pupils of all abilities?
6. How many schools have adopted or are considering adopting spaced learning? (And if not, why not?)

I’d also like to try some spaced learning principles in my S1 and S2 Geography classes; we shall be covering Settlement and Population Studies respectively after Christmas, and I have hour long lessons with them, which fits the timescale needed. I’ll need to see if the topics lend themseleves to spaced learning-or vice versa-and then think carefully how to do this.

In the meantime, I hope to explore this topic further in the next few posts.