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Spacing effect: What's the best way to remember content you have learned? (It's not by cramming)

Posted Feb 07 2011 12:00am

112440594222 People who have attended my seminars may recall my mentioning the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting . I do so when urging people to review (and use) more than once what they have learned, because otherwise most of it will likely be forgotten.

I was delighted to see my old "mentor" Ebbinghaus featured in an article today. (Actually I never met Hermann Ebbinghaus because he died in 1909, but I have benefited much from his pioneering work on memory.) An excerpt from that article " 'Spacing effect' calls for an end to last-minute cramming " (Globe and Mail):

Hundreds of studies carried out since {Ebbinghaus's research] have established the power of what is now known as the “spacing effect” and how people can better remember ... if they spread out their study time rather than attempting one long cram session.

...

What kind of spacing is most effective? Should lessons and subsequent review sessions be a week apart? Or is a gap of several months better? Are cumulative tests an effective teaching tool because they cover material taught earlier in the year as well as the most recent lessons?

...

[R]esearchers in United States, China and Japan have turned to brain imaging to investigate the neural underpinnings of the “spacing effect,” and what brain regions are involved. The effect has also

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