Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 379–399 | Cite as

Distributed Learning: Data, Metacognition, and Educational Implications

  • Lisa K. SonEmail author
  • Dominic A. Simon
Review Article


A major decision that must be made during study pertains to the distribution, or the scheduling, of study. In this paper, we review the literature on the benefits of spacing, or spreading one's study sessions relatively far apart in time, as compared to massing, where study is crammed into one long session without breaks. The results from laboratory research provide strong evidence for this pervasive “spacing effect,” especially for long-term retention. The metacognitive literature on spacing, however, suggests that massing is the preferred strategy, particularly in young children. Reasons for why this is so are discussed as well as a few recommendations regarding how spacing strategies might be encouraged in real-world learning. While further research and applicability questions remain, the two fields—education and cognitive science—have made huge progress in recent years, resulting in promising new learning developments.


Spacing effect Distributed learning Distributed practice Massing Metacognition Motor learning 



A large portion of this research was supported by CASL Grant R305H060161 from the Institute of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. The authors are entirely responsible for the results and their interpretation presented herein.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBarnard CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMSC 3452, New Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

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