Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN Principle #7 Mix-Up Practice Tasks to Boost Performance

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Variety is the spice of life – and it helps students learn too

fact sheet – video – podcast

Long-term learning and classroom performance can be enhanced by mixing up tasks for students rather than focusing on single concepts, according to information released by Australian researchers. fact sheet

Applying neurosciPEN Principle #7 copyence, cognitive psychology and educational processes, researchers have been assessing a range of teaching processes in an effort to develop science-based strategies, tools and information designed to improve Australia’s learning outcomes. video

The research has revealed that ‘massed practice’ – the concept of focusing on one specific task at a time – might well have short-term benefits, however it is more likely to impair long-term performance and students’ skills transfer. podcast

Conversely ‘interleaved practice’ – where students learn many different skills in a mixed up fashion – has been found to impair performance during immediate practice but improves long-term performance and students’ skills transfer.

Neuroscientists have proven that if practice is undertaken in an interleaved fashion, task-relevant brain areas demonstrate enhanced communication and coordination, beneficial for long-term performance.

Importantly too research has also shown that students who learned in the mixed up fashion, the interleaved practice, are more likely to also do better if presented with an unexpected task compared to those students who have learned in a massed practice way.

The Mix-Up Practice Tasks to Boost Performance 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 and students across the country.

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.