Spaced Learning Toolkit – How memories are made

memory-laneIf you were anything like me at school, trying to remember everything I was taught in my lessons, permanently, in hope that I would then pass my exams could sometimes prove to be a bit of a nightmare.  A last minute scrabble through my text books as I was entering an exam room to remember Boyle’s law or how to use Pythagorean theorem was often the case – I was definitely better at languages and English literature!

I tried everything to help with my revision and learning in the classroom. Whether it be constantly repeating over and over out loud, myself and my friends testing each other or writing it out so it ‘’stuck’’.

A couple of years ago, Monkseaton High School began the development of ‘’Spaced Learning’’. This is a method of embedding information in our long term memory. It was created by Monkseaton based on research by R Douglas Fields  (see ''Making Memories Stick'', Scientific American February 2005 if you’re a scientist!).

So what is ‘’Spaced Learning’’?  In a Spaced Learning ‘lesson’, there are 3 repetitions of learning with two 10 minute gaps between each section. During the 10 minute break, students spent the time doing a simple physical task such as dribbling a basketball for example. This uses a different part of the brain and did not stimulate the memory pathways that are being formed. 

Looking at ways to test this method of learning, Monkseaton focused on their GCSE Science students, and early results showed they were learning a great deal very quickly.  After 4 years of trials, they realized that this way of learning was working exceptionally well, but the school couldn’t cope with the number of people keen to use Spaced Learning.  They wanted to support other schools around the world. With the help of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Innovation Unit through their Learning Futures they created a guide to Spaced Learning that is now available to schools around the world.  The Learning Futures team linked with schools to continue the research.  Testing in those schools showed positive outcomes.  From all this work, the Learning Futures team and Monkseaton staff eventually developed the Spaced Learning Toolkit. It’s very interesting, especially the video of the Spaced Learning session! 

Spaced Learning is commonly used with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010  as both video and text can be blended into the slides and then throughout each of the 3 repetition, the slides can be adapted to aid learning. ie take away information and test the students memory.

More information of Spaced Learning can be found here

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