Using Spacing to Enhance Diverse Forms of Learning: Review of Recent Research and Implications for Instruction

Abstract

Every day, students and instructors are faced with the decision of when to study information. The timing of study, and how it affects memory retention, has been explored for many years in research on human learning. This research has shown that performance on final tests of learning is improved if multiple study sessions are separated—i.e., “spaced” apart—in time rather than massed in immediate succession. In this article, we review research findings of the types of learning that benefit from spaced study, demonstrations of these benefits in educational settings, and recent research on the time intervals during which spaced study should occur in order to maximize memory retention. We conclude with a list of recommendations on how spacing might be incorporated into everyday instruction.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a collaborative activity award from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, by the Office of Naval Research (grant N00014-10-1-0072), by the Institute of Education Sciences (US Department of Education grant R305B070537 to H. Pashler and grant R305A110517 to D. Rohrer), and by the National Science Foundation (Center Grant SBE-0542013).

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Correspondence to Shana K. Carpenter.

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Carpenter, S.K., Cepeda, N.J., Rohrer, D. et al. Using Spacing to Enhance Diverse Forms of Learning: Review of Recent Research and Implications for Instruction. Educ Psychol Rev 24, 369–378 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9205-z

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Keywords

  • Memory
  • Distributed practice
  • Spacing effect