Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN #4 Spacing-Out Practice Enhances Memory

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Last minute exam cramming? Researchers says there is a better way

fact sheet – video – podcast

With exams a near-constant in today’s classroom life the tendency for students to cram their studies into the last minute seems to be a growing phenomenon. fact sheet

PEN Principle #4 copyBut Australian researchers applying neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational processes have determined that while cramming may provide short-term gains, spacing out study/practice will improve long-term learning, memory and educational performance. video

The Spacing-Out Practices Enhances Memory message is among a series of new PEN Principles – Psychology, Education and Neuroscience – developed by Australia’s Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) to assist teachers, students and parents across the country. podcast

These researchers have been assessing a range of teaching and learning processes in an effort to develop science-based strategies, tools and information designed to improve Australia’s learning and educational outcomes.

Their research has shown that spacing out practice not only shows improved mental performance, but also applies to the physical environment, including sporting pursuits.

Individuals can expect enhanced learning and memory if practice sessions are broken up and spread over a longer timespan than if they are all clumped together in one long practice session.

Neuroscientists have found that if learning is stretched over several short sessions, areas of the frontal control and deeper memory networks of the brain demonstrate enhanced activity.

Spacing out practice has been demonstrated to assist all students ranging from young pre-schoolers learning how to read through to university medical students learning how to perform difficult surgeries.

As a result, researchers are recommending that teachers schedule regular review sessions during a school term to revisit the previously learned material rather than rely on one large session just prior to exams or the end of term.

The PEN Principles have been developed in video, podcast and poster format to enable ease of use by teachers, students and parents.

About The SLRC

The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across the country, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs.