ArticlePDF Available

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


Abstract and Figures

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.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Using Spacing to Enhance Diverse Forms of Learning:
Review of Recent Research and Implications
for Instruction
Shana K. Carpenter &Nicholas J. Cepeda &Doug Rohrer &Sean H. K. Kang &
Harold Pashler
Published online: 4 August 2012
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
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 separatedi.e., spaced
apartin 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.
Keywords Memory .Distributed practice .Spacing effect
One fundamental decision that students and instructors must make is when to study
information. If students learned new information yesterday, should they begin to review
their notes today, or wait a few more days? Once instructors have presented information,
how long should they wait before they review this information in order to increase the
chances that students will retain it over summer break? Given that the intended outcome of
Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
DOI 10.1007/s10648-012-9205-z
S. K. Carpenter (*)
Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, W112 Lagomarcino Hall, Ames, IA 50011, USA
N. J. Cepeda
Department of Psychology and LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research, York University, Toronto,
D. Rohrer
Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA
S. H. K. Kang
Department of Education, Dartmouth College, Hanover, USA
H. Pashler
Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, USA
such decisions is to promote durable learning, understanding how the scheduling of study
influences memory retention is critically important.
The Benefits of Spaced Study
Studying information across two or more sessions that are separated (i.e., spaced apart or
distributed) in time often produces better learning than spending the same amount of time
studying the material in a single session. Figure 1illustrates the design of a typical study on
this topic. This design includes: (1) multiple study sessions in which the same information
(e.g., biology terms) is presented at least twice, (2) a manipulation of the time duration
between successive presentations, which is referred to here as the spacing gap, and (3) a test
delay that is defined as the time elapsed between the final study presentation and the test.
The test delay can either be fixed or manipulated.
When the spacing gap between two or more presentations of the same item is zero (e.g.,
the same biology term and definition is presented back-to-back with no interruptions in-
between), the presentations are said to be massed together. When the gap between presenta-
tions is greater than zero (e.g., a given biology term is repeated every 5 min or after five
different biology terms have been presented), then the presentations are said to be spaced or
distributed because they are separated by a nonzero time interval. The gap separating spaced
presentations can range anywhere from a few seconds to several weeks, whereas the gap
separating massed presentations is zero.
On the final memory test, performance is most often better for items that were spaced
rather than massed. This is typically referred to as the spacing effect. Some studies have also
reported that different spacing gaps (i.e., lags) result in different degrees of learning, which
has sometimes been referred to as the lag effect. For example, learning of a given biology
term might be better when it is repeated after a relatively long spacing gap (e.g., 5 min)
compared to a relatively short spacing gap (e.g., 1 min). In the current paper, we use the term
spacing effect in a general sense to refer to the different degrees of learning that result as a
function of different spacing gaps.
The spacing effect is one of the oldest and most reliable findings in research on human
learning. Early demonstrations of this effect date back to over 100 years ago (e.g., see
Ebbinghaus 1885/1913), and hundreds of published studies have reported benefits of spacing
(for a recent review, see Cepeda et al.2006). While participants in most of these studies were
adult learners, the benefits of spacing have also been reliably demonstrated in studies with
younger participants, including elementary school children (e.g., Toppino & DiGeorge 1984),
middle school children (e.g., Carpenter et al.2009; Toppino & DeMesquita 1984), and preschool
children as young as 3 or 4 years of age (e.g., Rea & Modigliani 1987; Toppino 1991).
Fig. 1 Design of a typical study on the spacing effect. Participants experience two learning sessions that are
separated by an interval of time referred to here as the spacing gap. After another interval of time called the
test delay, participants are given a final test over the information that they encountered in the two learning
370 Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
The vast majority of studies on the spacing effect have been conducted in the laboratory,
and these studies typically require participants to learn relatively simple types of verbal
information such as word lists or trivia facts. Recently, however, new findings have emerged
showing that spacing can also improve learning of information that is conceptually more
difficult. For example, Bird (2010) found that longer spacing gaps improved English-learning
adultsunderstanding of subtle grammatical rules. Participants saw sentences such as Albert
Einstein has been a great mathematician,and their task was to provide the corrected version,
Albert Einstein was a great mathematician.Two practice sessions were separated by either 3
or 14 days, and the 14-day spacing gap produced superior scores to the 3-day gap on a test given
60 days later. Spacing has also been shown to improve learning in other tasks that might be
considered complex forms of learning, such as spelling (Fishman et al.1968), reading skills
(e.g., Seabrook et al.2005), and biology (Reynolds & Glaser, 1964).
Spacing effects were found in two recent experiments in which college students learned a
moderately abstract mathematics task (Rohrer & Taylor 2006,2007). The task required
students to find the number of permutations of a sequence of items with at least one repeated
item. For instance, the sequence abbccc has 60 permutations, including cabcbc and abcbcc.
In both studies, spacing boosted scores on a final test consisting of novel problems of the
same kind. Figure 2shows the results of one of these studies.
Benefits of spacing have also been reported for tasks involving coordinated motor skills. For
instance,inastudyreportedbyMoultonet al.(2006), surgical residents practiced microsurgical
skills in four training sessions that were squeezed into the same day or distributed across
4 weeks. On a final test given 1 month after the last practice session, a spacing effect was found.
Recent studies have shown that spacing can benefit learning in realistic educational
contexts as well. In one study, Sobel et al.(2011) investigated fifth-gradersretention for
the definitions of uncommon English words of the type that appear on the Graduate Record
Examination (e.g., abscond: to leave secretly and hide, often to avoid the law). These words
were learned in class via a teacher-led tutorial that included slides, oral practice, and paper-
and-pencil tests. Either immediately or 1 week after the first tutorial, students completed the
same tutorial a second time, and were then given a final vocabulary test that required them to
supply the definition for each word 5 weeks after completing the second tutorial. Memory on
7-day gap
0-day gap
5 problems
of one kind
5 more problems
of the same kind
10 problems of
the same kind
7 days
1 or 4 wks
Tes t
Test Delay (weeks)
.70 .64
0-day gap
7-day gap
Fig. 2 A mathematics spacing experiment. College students observed a tutorial on how to solve an obscure
kind of permutation problem before attempting 10 practice problems that were given in a single session (0-day
spacing gap) or spaced across two sessions separated by 1 week (7-day spacing gap; for full details, see Rohrer
& Taylor 2006). A test with novel problems of the same kind was given 1 or 4 weeks later. Spacing had no
reliable effect on test scores after a 1-week delay but doubled test scores after a 4-week delay
Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378 371
the 5-week delayed test was superior for definitions learned with the 7-day spacing gap
(20.8 %) compared to the 0-day spacing gap (7.5 %). This amount of forgetting might appear
substantial, but previous research on forgetting of classroom material has demonstrated a
similar level of forgetting over a similar time period (Jones 1923; Tiedeman 1948).
In a second study, Carpenter et al.(2009) explored how the timing of a review session
affected retention of US history facts that were learned by eighth grade students. After
completing their course in US history, students completed a review activity that involved
answering several questions from the most recent unit that they studied (e.g., Who assassi-
nated president Abraham Lincoln?). For each question, students were asked to write an
answer (e.g., John Wilkes Booth), and then were given a sheet of answers to check their
accuracy. One group of students completed the review 1 week after finishing the course (i.e.,
the Immediate Review Group), and another group completed the same review 16 weeks
later, after returning from summer vacation (i.e., the Delayed Review Group). Students were
tested over the information again 9 months after completing the review. After such a
substantial delay, it is not surprising that students forgot the majority of answers to these
questions. The key finding, however, was that long-term retention was better for students
who completed the delayed review than for those who completed the immediate review
(12.2 vs. 8 %, respectively).
Another demonstration of the benefits of spacing in the classroom was reported by
Seabrook et al.(2005), who assessed first gradersacquisition of reading skills. In their
regular classrooms, all students received 6 min of instruction per day for 2 weeks. One group
of students received this instruction within a single session lasting 6 min, while a second
group received it across three separate 2-min sessions that were administered at unspecified
time intervals. A comparison of pretest and posttest scores revealed that the group experi-
encing the spaced 2-min sessions showed greater improvement in reading skills (an increase
of 8.3 points), compared to the group experiencing the continuous 6-min session (an increase
of only 1.3 points).
How Long Should the Spacing Gap Be?
To use spacing as effectively as possible, it is important to know just how far apart the study
sessions should be spaced. For instance, if medical professionals wish to maintain good
retention of emergency response skills over a 2-year period, is there an optimal time during
which they should review these skills? When learners must retain information over a given
test delay, an important practical questiontoaddressiswhenrepeatedstudyofthis
information should take place.
If spacing benefits learning, then a reasonable assumption might be that longer spacing
gaps would benefit learning to an even greater degree. Indeed, some studies examining the
effects of longer vs. shorter spacing gaps have typically found that longer spacing gaps are
more beneficial for retention (e.g., Glenberg 1976; Hintzman 1969,1974; Melton 1970). For
example, Kahana and Howard (2005) found that retention of words was best when the words
were repeated three times with 620 other words occurring between each of the three
presentations, compared with only two to six other words occurring between each of the
three presentations.
Studies by Bahrick and colleagues examining long-term retention appear to confirm the
idea that longer spacing gaps produce better memory retention than shorter spacing gaps. In
a study by Bahrick (1979), participants learned the English translations for several Spanish
words by completing six learning sessions that were separated by a spacing gap of either
372 Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
0 days (i.e., all sessions occurred on the same day), 1 day, or 30 days. All participants were
given a final test 1 month after the lastlearning session. Performance on this test was best for the
participants who learned the words with the 30-day spacing gap. A follow-up study revealed
that retention of these words after 8 years was still superior for the participants who experienced
the 30-day spacing gap relative to the 0- or 1-day spacing gap (Bahrick & Phelps 1987).
However, reviews of the literature on spacing have revealed that an increase in the
duration of the spacing gap does not always produce superior memory retention (e.g.,
Cepeda et al.2006,2009; Donovan & Radosevich 1999; Glenberg 1976; Verkoeijen et al.
2008). One potential danger of waiting too long before reviewing information is that
students may forget much of what they have learned previously, and this forgetting may
offset any benefits that would have occurred due to spacing. This suggests that there may be
diminishing returns to increasing the spacing gap.
What might the optimal spacing gap be? Answering this question requires a thorough
comparison of the effects of different spacing gaps across a wide range of time intervals. In
what was probably the most comprehensive study ever to explore this, Cepeda et al.(2008)
gave adult learners a flashcard-like web tutorial in which they learned a set of obscure facts
(e.g., Libyas flag consists of a single solid color). During the first learning session, participants
learned 32 of these facts until they could recall each of them successfully. Then, each participant
completed a second learning session in which they were quizzed over each fact (e.g., what
countrys flag consists of a single solid color?), and then shown the answer (e.g., Libya).
Finally, each participant was given a final test over each fact in which they were shown this
question again and asked to recall the answer. The spacing gap between the two learning
sessions ranged across several values between 0 and 105 days. For example, some participants
completed the two learning sessions with a 2-day spacing gap, others with a 7-day gap, and
others with a 21-day gap. Following the second learning session, each participant completed the
final test after a test delay of 7, 35, 70, or 350 days. Each participant was randomly assigned to
one of 26 unique combinations of spacing gap and test delay.
Figure 3shows the proportion of facts correctly recalled on the final test as a
function of spacing gap and test delay. The key finding from this study is that the
Fig. 3 Proportion of facts recalled in the study by Cepeda et al.(2008) as a function of spacing gap (either 0,
1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 14, 21, 35, 70, or 105 days) and test delay (either 7, 35, 70, or 350 days). The spacing gap that
produced the highest level of recall was dependent upon the test delay, such that shorter spacing gaps (e.g.,
1 day) were more beneficial for recall after a relatively short test delay (e.g., 7 days), and longer spacing gaps
(e.g., 21 days) were more beneficial for recall after a longer test delay (e.g., 70 days)
Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378 373
optimal spacing gap depends on when the information will be tested in the future. For
participants who completed the final test 7 days after their final study session, the
optimal spacing gap was 1 day. However, for participants who waited 35 days before
taking the final test, the optimal spacing gap was 11 days. For those who completed
the final test after 70 days, the best spacing gap was 21 days. In general, the optimal
spacing gap equaled 1020 % of the test delay. In other words, the longer the test
delay, the longer the optimal spacing gap.
This study demonstrates that there is no one-size-fits-allapproach to using spacing as a
means of improving memory retention. Quite simply, a longer spacing gap is not always
better. Instead, these findings suggest that in order to pick the optimal timing of study
sessions, students and instructors must decide when they expect to need the information. If
the goal is to retain information for just a short time, shorter spacing gaps may be ideal.
However, if the goal is to achieve retention for much longer periods, spacing gaps of several
weeks or months may be best. Indeed, for lifelong preservation of knowledge, spacing gaps
of years may well be optimal.
While the study by Cepeda et al.(2008) sought to determine the optimal duration of a
spacing gap when learning is limited to only two sessions, numerous studies have addressed
a related question: if learners encounter information in three or more sessions, should the
spacing gaps be equal? Studies that have explored the effects of different spacing gaps with
three or more learning sessions have typically compared two schedules of spacing: (1) a
fixed schedule, in which all spacing gaps are identical (e.g., information is studied four
times, with a 24-h spacing gap separating each study session) or (2) an expanding schedule,
in which the spacing gap becomes progressively longer (e.g., information is studied once,
then again after 30 min, then a third time after 24 h, and a fourth time after 1 week).
Experiments comparing fixed and expanding schedules have produced equivocal results.
Some studies have found that expanding schedules produce better learning than fixed
schedules (e.g., Cull et al.1996; Landauer & Bjork 1978), and others have found that
expanding and fixed schedules produce similar levels of learning (e.g., Carpenter & DeLosh
2005; Cull 2000; Logan & Balota 2008; Pyc & Rawson 2007; for a critical review of this
literature, see Balota et al.2007).
Recent evidence suggests that expanding schedules might be better for short-term
retention, and fixed schedules might be better for longer-term retention (Karpicke &
Roediger 2007). A comprehensive comparison of various spacing gaps and test delays
involving three or more learning sessions has yet to be carried out and until then, it remains
an open question whether the optimal spacing gaps for three or more learning sessions are
critically dependent upon when the final test takes place.
One finding appears to be reliable, however. Any form of spacingwhether it is fixed or
expandingappears to promote learning. In studies comparing either a fixed or expanding
schedule to a massed schedule in which three or more presentations of an item occur back-
to-back in immediate succession, it has been consistently demonstrated that either type of
spacing schedule produces better learning than a massed schedule (e.g., Carpenter & DeLosh
2005; Cull 2000; Rea & Modigliani 1985).
Thus, when faced with the practical question of when to review information, the present
findings suggest that students and teachers do not need to be overly concerned about
whether the spacing gaps that separate repeated study sessions are equal or not. The key
criterion is that information should be reviewed after a period of time has passed since the
initial learning. Particularly if the goal is long-term retention, the findings from Cepeda et al.
(2008) suggest that the ideal time to review information may be several weeks or months
after it was initially learned.
374 Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
Pedagogical Recommendations and Responses to Potential Challenges
Many researchers have urged teachers and curriculum designers to use spacing as an
instructional strategy (e.g., Bahrick 1979;Bjork1979;Dempster1987,1988,1989;
Halpern 2008; Metcalfe et al.2007; Pashler Rohrer et al.2007; Willingham 2002).
Unfortunately, however, spacing has yet to be systematically implemented in educational
curricula (e.g., Cepeda et al.2008; Dempster 1988; Rohrer & Pashler 2010). One reason for
this could be that research on spacing has not produced a clear set of recommendations for
how it can be used in everyday instruction. In this section, we describe some specific
strategies that can be used by students and educators to capitalize on the advantages of
The literature reviewed here suggests that in order to promote long-term retention of
knowledge, students should receive spaced re-exposure to previously learned information.
Particularly if the goal is long-term retention, it may be beneficial to review this information
after a time period of at least several weeks (e.g., Cepeda et al., 2008). This review can take
place in a number of ways. First, instructors might incorporate into each lesson a brief
review of concepts that were learned several weeks earlier.
Second, homework assignments could be used to re-expose students to important infor-
mation that they have learned previously. This recommendation may be particularly useful
when class time is limited and a review is difficult to fit in to the lesson on any given day.
For example, an instructor could intentionally include questions covering information that
was learned in class several weeks earlier.
Third, instructors could give exams and quizzes that are cumulative. In addition to re-
exposing students to information that they have previously learned, cumulative exams and
quizzes provide students with a good reason to review information on their own. These three
recommendations are not mutually exclusive, and like any guidelines, they are more likely to
produce positive learning outcomes when used in conjunction with one another (for more on
pedagogical recommendations involving spacing, see Pashler et al.2007a,b).
These recommendations may sometimes be difficult to carry out. First, students often
seem to be less than enthusiastic about cumulative exams. When the exam is cumulative,
students may feel that there is more information that they must study. However, if students
are provided with regular reviews of previously learned information, this information is
more likely to remain accessible in memory, reducing the need for them to restudy old
information that has already been forgotten.
Second, instructors may be discouraged to find that after several weeks, students have
forgotten much of the information that they had previously known. It is commonly the case
that students forget a good deal of what they have learned, especially after lengthy time
periods (e.g., Carpenter et al.2008; Dillon 2008). Importantly, however, this is not an
indication that the instruction was wholly futile. On the contrary, when students are re-
exposed to information that they have learned but temporarily cannot recall, they acquire this
information much faster than information that is being learned for the first time (e.g., Berger
et al.2008; Ebbinghaus 1885/1913; Nelson 1985). Thus, although forgetting is likely to be a
necessary consequence of reviewing information after long spacing gaps, re-exposing
students to this information on a regular basis will keep it accessible in memory and render
it less vulnerable to forgetting over time.
A final challenge that instructors might encounter in implementing spacing into learning
curricula is the fact that educational materials appear to discourage this approach. In
particular, many textbooks present information in a nondistributed fashion. For instance,
although spacing has been known to improve foreign-language learning (e.g., Bahrick et al.
Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378 375
1993; Bahrick & Phelps 1987; Bird 2010; Bloom & Shuell 1981), in most foreign language
textbooks, the vocabulary of each chapter is devoted to a particular topic (e.g., food,
clothing), and these words rarely appear in subsequent chapters. Likewise, in most mathe-
matics textbooks, each set of problems is devoted to the most recent lesson. After learning
about ratios, for example, students will work one or two dozen ratio problems.
Because textbooks do not typically provide spaced exposure to concepts, in order to
ensure that students receive this, instructors may find it necessary to supplement the
information from any given lesson with examples from previous lessons. For example, in
one rarely used approach to mathematics learning, each lesson is followed by an interleaved
set of examples from many different lessons. Interleaving inherently provides spaced
practice, and, no less importantly, it also provides students with an opportunity to choose
the appropriate strategy for a given kind of problem, which students need not do when every
problem concerns the same procedure or concept (e.g., Rohrer 2009; Taylor & Rohrer 2010).
In this review, we have highlighted some key findings concerning the types of learning
that benefit from spacing, demonstrations of spacing effects in educational settings, and
explorations of the ideal spacing gap. We have also attempted to shed some light on how the
benefits of spaced practice might be implemented in everyday instruction. We hope that this
information can be of value to students and educators who are seeking ways of using spacing
to maximize learning.
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).
Bahrick, H. P. (1979). Maintenance of knowledge: questions about memory we forget to ask. Journal of
Experimental Psychology: General, 108, 296308.
Bahrick, H. P., & Phelps, E. (1987). Retention of Spanish vocabulary over eight years. Journal of Experi-
mental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 344349.
Bahrick, H. P., Bahrick, L. E., Bahrick, A. S., & Bahrick, P. E. (1993). Maintenance of foreign language
vocabulary and the spacing effect. Psychological Science, 4, 316321.
Balota, D. A., Duchek, J. M., & Logan, J. M. (2007). Is expanded retrieval practice a superior form of spaced
retrieval? A critical review of the extent literature. In J. S. Nairne (Ed.), The foundations of remembering:
essays in honor of Henry L. Roediger III (pp. 83105). London: Psychology Press.
Berger, S. A., Hall, L. K., & Bahrick, H. P. (2008). Stabilizing access to marginal and submarginal knowledge.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 5, 438447.
Bird, S. (2010). Effects of distributed practice on the acquisition of second language English syntax. Applied
PsychoLinguistics, 31, 635650.
Bjork, R. A. (1979). Information-processing analysis of college teaching. Educational Psychologist, 14,1523.
Bloom, K. C., & Shuell, T. J. (1981). Effects of massed and distributed practice on the learning and retention
of second-language vocabulary. Journal of Educational Research, 74, 245248.
Carpenter, S. K., & DeLosh, E. L. (2005). Application of the testing and spacing effects to name-learning.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 619636.
Carpenter, S. K., Pashler, H., Wixted, J. T., & Vul, E. (2008). The effects of tests on learning and forgetting.
Memory and Cognition, 36, 438448.
Carpenter, S. K., Pashler, H., & Cepeda, N. J. (2009). Using tests to enhance 8th grade studentsretention of
US history facts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 760771.
Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall
tasks: a review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354380.
Cepeda, N. J., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., & Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing effects in learning: a temporal
ridgeline of optimal retention. Psychological Science, 19, 10951102.
376 Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
Cepeda, N. J., Coburn, N., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., Mozer, M. C., & Pashler, H. (2009). Optimizing distributed
practice: theoretical analysis and practical implications. Experimental Psychology, 56, 236246.
Cull, W. L. (2000). Untangling the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing for cued recall.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, 215235.
Cull, W. L., Shaughnessy, J. J., & Zechmeister, E. B. (1996). Expanding the understanding of the expanding-
pattern-of-retrieval mnemonic: toward confidence in applicability. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Applied, 2, 365378.
Dempster, F. N. (1987). Time and the production of classroom learning: discerning implications from basic
research. Educational Psychologist, 22,121.
Dempster, F. N. (1988). The spacing effect: a case study in the failure to apply the results of psychological
research. American Psychologist, 43, 627634.
Dempster, F. N. (1989). Spacing effects and their implications for theory and practice. Educational Psychol-
ogy Review, 1, 309330.
Dillon, S. (2008). Survey finds teenagers ignorant on basic history and literature questions. The New York Times, A16.
Donovan, J. J., & Radosevich, D. J. (1999). A meta-analytic review of the distribution of practice effect: now
you see it, now you don't. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 795805.
Ebbinghaus, H. (1885/1913). Memory (H. A. Ruger & C. E. Bussenius, Transl.). New York: Teachers College,
Columbia University.
Fishman, E. J., Keller, L., & Atkinson, R. C. (1968). Massed versus distributed practice in computerized
spelling. Journal of Educational Psychology, 59, 290296.
Glenberg, A. M. (1976). Monotonic and nonmonotonic lag effects in paired-associate and recognition
memory paradigms. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 15,116.
Halpern, D. F. (2008, March). 25 learning principles to guide pedagogy and the design of learning environ-
ments. Paper distributed at the keynote address at the Bowling Green State University Teaching and
Learning Fair. Bowling Green, OH
Hintzman, D. L. (1969). Recognition time: effects of recency, frequency, and the spacing of repetitions.
Journal of Experimental Psychology, 79, 192194.
Hintzman, D. L. (1974). Theoretical implications of the spacing effect. In R. L. Solso (Ed.), Theories in
cognitive psychology: The Loyola symposium (pp. 7797). Potomac: Erlbaum.
Jones, H. E. (1923). Experimental studies of college teaching. Archives of Psychology, 68,171.
Kahana, M. J., & Howard, M. W. (2005). Spacing and lag effects in free recall of pure lists. Psychonomic
Bulletin & Review, 12, 159164.
Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L., III (2007). Expanding retrieval practice promotes short-term retention, but
equally spaced retrieval enhances long-term retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning,
Memory, and Cognition, 33, 704719.
Landauer, T. K., & Bjork, R. A. (1978). Optimum rehearsal patterns and name learning. In M. M. Gruneberg,
P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.), Practical aspects of memory (pp. 625632). London: Academic Press.
Logan, J. M., & Balota, D. A. (2008). Expanded vs. equal interval spaced retrieval practice: exploring
different schedules of spacing and retention interval in younger and older adults. Aging, Neuropsychol-
ogy, & Cognition, 15, 257280.
Melton, A. W. (1970). The situation with respect to the spacing of repetitions and memory. Journal of Verbal
Learning & Verbal Behavior, 9, 596606.
Metcalfe, J., Kornell, N., & Son, L. K. (2007). A cognitive-science based programme to enhance study
efficacy in a high and low risk setting. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 743768.
Moulton, C.-A. E., Dubrowski, A., MacRae, H., Graham, B., Grober, E., & Reznick, R. (2006). Teaching
surgical skills: what kind of practice makes perfect? A randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Surgery,
244, 400409.
Nelson, T. O. (1985). Ebbinghauss contribution to the measurement of retention: savings during relearning.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11, 472479.
Pashler, H., Bain, P., Bottge, B., Graesser, A., Koedinger, K., McDaniel, M., & Metcalfe, J. (2007).
Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning (NCER 2007-2004). Washington, DC:
National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education.
Retrieved from
Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Cepeda, N. J., & Carpenter, S. K. (2007). Enhancing learning and retarding forgetting:
choices and consequences. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 187193.
Pyc, M. A., & Rawson, K. (2007). Examining the efficiency of schedules of distributed retrieval practice.
Memory and Cognition, 35, 19171927.
Rea, C. P., & Modigliani, V. (1985). The effect of expanded versus massed practice on the retention of
multiplication facts and spelling lists. Human Learning: Journal of Practical Research & Applications, 4,
Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378 377
Rea, C. P., & Modigliani, V. (1987). The spacing effect in 4- to 9-year-old children. Memory and Cognition,
15, 436443.
Reynolds, J. H., & Glaser, R. (1964). Effects of repetition and spaced review upon retention of a complex
learning task. Journal of Educational Psychology, 55, 297308.
Rohrer, D. (2009). The effects of spacing and mixing practice problems. Journal for Research in Mathematics
Education, 40,417.
Rohrer, D., & Pashler, H. (2010). Recent research on human learning challenges conventional instructional
strategies. Educational Researcher, 39, 406412.
Rohrer, D., & Taylor, K. (2006). The effects of overlearning and distributed practice on the retention of
mathematics knowledge. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 12091224.
Rohrer, D., & Taylor, K. (2007). The shuffling of mathematics practice problems boosts learning. Instruc-
tional Science, 35, 481498.
Seabrook, R., Brown, G. D. A., & Solity, J. E. (2005). Distributed and massed practice: from laboratory to
classroom. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 107122.
Sobel, H. S., Cepeda, N. J., & Kapler, I. V. (2011). Spacing effects in real-world classroom vocabulary
learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 763767.
Taylor, K., & Rohrer, D. (2010). The effect of interleaving practice. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 837
Tiedeman, H. R. (1948). A study in retention of classroom learning. The Journal of Educational Research, 41,
Toppino, T. C. (1991). The spacing effect in young childrens free recall: support for automatic process
explanations. Memory and Cognition, 19, 159167.
Toppino, T. C., & DeMesquita, M. (1984). Effects of spacing repetitions on childrens memory. Journal of
Experimental Child Psychology, 37, 637648.
Toppino, T. C., & DiGeorge, W. (1984). The spacing effect in free recall emerges with development. Memory
and Cognition, 12,118122.
Verkoeijen, P. P. J. L., Rikers, R. M. J. P., & Özsoy, B. (2008). Distributed rereading can hurt the spacing effect
in text memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 685695.
Willingham, D. T. (2002). Allocating student study time: massed vs. distributed practice. American Educator,
378 Educ Psychol Rev (2012) 24:369378
... Among several factors affecting learning yield [12,13], the spacing effect is one of the most well-established phenomena. Using temporal intervals for re-exposing learners to information over time (spaced learning) leads to more effective retention of knowledge in comparison to presenting it at a single time (massed learning) [14,15]. It has been proven that presenting the educational contents in a learning process which involves repetition for a second or third time after one or more diverse intervals from the first encounter (spaced learning), has a better outcome as opposed to a state in which the second set of information follows the first immediately in a bolus or mass presentation [16]. ...
Full-text available
Background The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak basically changed teaching methods across the world, and learning was almost replaced by virtual learning during the pandemic. Also, the spacing effect is one of the most well-established phenomena in the science of learning. Using temporal intervals for re-exposing learners to information over time (spaced learning) leads to more effective retention of knowledge compared to having information presented at a single time (massed learning). Hence, we designed a virtual spaced learning method to reap the benefits of virtual learning and spaced learning concomitantly. Methods/approach An interventional semi- experimental survey among 66 Pharm D students was designed and implemented. Students were divided into two groups (spaced vs mass learning) in the national integrated virtual education platform (NAVID) as the matrix for teaching as well as evaluation. Classes were conducted in the following sequence: 1- answering the pre-test, 2- watching and listening to the educational content (separately for each group), 3- answering the post-test ( n = 1). The pre/post-test consisted of 10 four-choice questions based on the Kirkpatrick Model extracted from the educational content. Results/outcomes Findings revealed that the average score was not significantly different between the post-tests of the spaced learning and mass learning (7.26 ± 2.26 vs 6.5 ± 2.5) methods utilizing the independent t- test ( p ≥ 0.05). Conclusions Since no statistically significant improvement was observed in the virtual spaced learning group compared to the control group, it seems that clarifying the significant influence of the spaced learning strategy in pharmacy education requires longer period of study, or study on less complex or skill-based topics for further evaluation.
... Of note, the bulk of this information is presented on the first day, not repeated or spaced to promote learning as the existing literature highlights as best practices (Karpicke & Bauernschmidt, 2011;Carpenter et al., 2012;Soderstrom et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
For this Capstone, we conducted a theory-based formative process evaluation of the onboarding program at MANA Nutritive Aid Products Incorporated. With its headquarters in Matthews, NC, and its manufacturing facility in Fitzgerald, GA, MANA is a nonprofit firm that supplies ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to global food aid organizations. The problem of practice for our Capstone was that there had not been a formal evaluation of MANA’s onboarding program, and the leadership team did not think that their onboarding program was effective due to the high turnover of new hires in less than 90 days. We built a theoretical framework from the extant literature to conduct the evaluation, including eight onboarding content areas and three timing stages. The content areas consisted of rules and policies, politics, performance proficiency, language, organizational goals and values, people, history, and future prospects. The timing stages included the anticipatory stage (pre-entry), the encounter stage (the first 90 days on the job), and the transformation stage (months four through 12). The questions that guided this project included the following: Q1. To what extent does MANA’s current onboarding program reflect the eight onboarding content areas that the extant research literature indicates make up an effective approach? Q2. To what extent does MANA’s current onboarding program reflect the structural and timing elements associated with an effective program in the extant literature? We conducted document reviews and semi-structured interviews to investigate these questions. Our analysis led us to conclude that MANA has partially implemented an onboarding program for its hourly paid manufacturing personnel that reflects the eight content areas and timing elements the extant literature indicates make up an effective approach. Drawing on the findings and the extant literature, we recommended that MANA take the following actions: • Create an onboarding buddy program; • Build realistic job previews; • Construct a structured supervisor meeting framework over the first year of employment; and • “Sweat the small stuff” by taking eight actions that, while seemingly basic, emerged from the literature as elements to assist in the identity construction of newcomers at little cost to the firm. Keywords: onboarding, organizational socialization, theory-based formative process program evaluation, new hires, hourly paid manufacturing employees
... Research shows that many students at this age do not use optimal learning strategies (e.g., Dembo & Eaton, 2000;Dirkx, Camp, Kester, & Kirschner, 2019). For example, distributing practice sessions over time rather than cramming them into a few longer sessions is a highly effective strategy for a variety of learning activities (Carpenter, Cepeda, Rohrer, Kang, & Pashler, 2012;Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013;Sobel, Cepeda, & Kapler, 2011). However, students tend to make little use of this and similar strategies (Dirkx et al., 2019; for similar findings with older students see Blasiman, Dunlosky, & Rawson, 2017;Ridgley, DaVia Rubenstein, & Callan, 2022;Susser & McCabe, 2013). ...
... PROMPT is a mobile app aimed at enhancing the self-regulated learning skills of 9-13year-olds. The app incorporates mobile interventions that specifically target two important MOBILE INTERVENTIONS 13 strategies: the learning strategy of distributing study sessions over time (Carpenter et al., 2012) and the metacognitive strategy of planning when and where to study (Gollwitzer, 1999). Our goal was to design an app that children could use on their own in their everyday lives and that includes several intervention features to support students' use of these strategies. ...
Full-text available
Mobile devices like smartphones and smartwatches are ubiquitous both inside and outside the classroom, but their potential for personalized education has yet to be realized. The data collected by mobile devices can be used to provide the right type and amount of support to a student at the right time. In the present work, we argue that adaptive mobile interventions can improve students’ learning and well-being and at the same time advance researchers’ understanding of educational processes. Therefore, mobile interventions which have thus far primarily attracted attention in mobile health research, provide tremendous potential for applications in educational research and practice. We identify three key promises of mobile interventions: 1) being able to intervene when and where it is most beneficial (i.e., “just-in-time adaptivity”), 2) estimating causal effects of interventions in ecologically valid settings, 3) taking into account the impact of context on the effectiveness of interventions. We draw on initial examples of mobile interventions from educational contexts, as well as a broader literature on mobile health interventions, to illustrate these promises. We conclude with a discussion of open questions and next steps for establishing mobile intervention research in education.
... Consequently, numerous study strategies have been researched with the goal of making learning more effective. A few examples include self-quizzing (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006), spaced learning across time (Carpenter et al., 2012), and explaining knowledge to oneself elaboratively (Chi et al., 1994). These strategies have been shown to improve learning but they all share a common drawback: They can be time-consuming when studying a large volume of content, which is typical in many educational settings (e.g., university courses). ...
The production effect-that reading aloud leads to better memory than does reading silently-has been defined narrowly with reference to memory; it has been explored largely using word lists as the material to be read and remembered. But might the benefit of production extend beyond memory and beyond individual words? In a series of four experiments, passages from reading comprehension tests served as the study material. Participants read some passages aloud and others silently. After each passage, they completed multiple-choice questions about that passage. Separating the multiple-choice questions into memory-focused versus comprehension-focused questions, we observed a consistent production benefit only for the memory-focused questions. Production clearly improves memory for text, not just for individual words, and also extends to multiple-choice testing. The overall pattern of findings fits with the distinctiveness account of production-that information read aloud stands out at study and at test from information read silently. Only when the tested information is a very close match to the studied information, as is the case for memory questions but not for comprehension questions, does production improve accuracy.
... Finally, teacher educators can promote the benefits of distributed practice with diverse motivational interventions, spreading them across an academic term or year. Benefits of distributed practice can include increased self-efficacy as learners gain mastery experiences across time, increased time to engage deeply with materials/activities, and repeated exposure to and practice with familiar materials/activities (for more on distributed learning, see Son & Simon, 2012;Carpenter et al., 2012). ...
Helping teachers understand and apply theory and research is one of the most challenging tasks of teacher preparation and professional development. As they learn about motivation and engagement, teachers need conceptually rich, yet easy-to-use, frameworks. At the same time, teachers must understand that student engagement is not separate from development, instructional decision-making, classroom management, student relationships, and assessment. This volume on teaching teachers about motivation addresses these challenges. The authors share multiple approaches and frameworks to cut through the growing complexity and variety of motivational theories, and tie theory and research to real-world experiences that teachers are likely to encounter in their courses and classroom experiences. Additionally, each chapter is summarized with key "take away" practices. A shared perspective across all the chapters in this volume on teaching teachers about motivation is "walking the talk." In every chapter, readers will be provided with rich examples of how research on and principles of classroom motivation can be re-conceptualized through a variety of college teaching strategies. Teachers and future teachers learning about motivation need to experience explicit modeling, practice, and constructive feedback in their college courses and professional development in order to incorporate those into their own practice. In addition, a core assumption throughout this volume is the importance of understanding the situated nature of motivation, and avoiding a "one-size-fits" all approach in the classroom. Teachers need to fully interrogate their instructional practices not only in terms of motivational principles, but also for their cultural relevance, equity, and developmental appropriateness. Just like P-12 students, college students bring their histories as learners and beliefs about motivation to their formal study of motivation. That is why college instructors teaching motivation must begin by helping students evaluate their personal beliefs and experiences. Relatedly, college instructors need to know their students and model differentiating their interactions to support each of them. The authors in this volume have, collectively, decades of experience teaching at the college level and conducting research in motivation, and provide readers with a variety of strategies to help teachers and future teachers explore how motivation is supported and undermined. In each chapter in this volume, readers will learn how college instructors can demonstrate what effective, motivationally supportive classrooms look, sound, and feel like.
The design of interactive systems leveraging testing and spacing effects has been poorly studied in ecological contexts. This paper presents an exploratory qualitative study conducted with French middle school and high-school teachers and students to identify hypotheses to guide the design of this kind of system. The resulting hypotheses are: (1) students will access the interactive system with a variety of devices; (2) the presence of a revision system will induce more testing activity during revision but (3) still massively before exams. (4) Teachers would like to have access to nominative indicators to set up personalised monitoring. (5) Students and parents will consent to share personal data with teachers. These hypotheses will be tested with a quantitative study based on data collected through the first version of the revision tool. KeywordsTesting effectSpacing effectRevisionInteractive systemQualitative method
Full-text available
The present study examined the effects of study schedule (interleaving vs. blocking) and feature descriptions on category learning and metacognitive predictions of learning. Across three experiments, participants studied exemplars from different rock categories and later had to classify novel exemplars. Rule-based and information-based categorization was also manipulated by selecting rock sub-categories for which the optimal strategy was the one that aligned with the extraction of a simple rule, or the one that required integration of information that may be difficult to describe verbally. We observed consistent benefits of interleaving over blocking on rock classification, which generalized to both rule-based (Experiment 1) and information-integration learning (Experiments 1–3). However, providing feature descriptions enhanced classification accuracy only when the stated features were diagnostic of category membership, indicating that their benefits were limited to rule-based learning (Experiment 1) and did not generalize to information-integration learning (Experiments 1–3). Furthermore, our examination of participants’ metacognitive predictions demonstrated that participants were not aware of the benefits of interleaving on category learning. Additionally, providing feature descriptions led to higher predictions of categorization even when no significant benefits on actual performance were exhibited.
Full-text available
Sets of mathematics problems are generally arranged in 1 of 2 ways. With blocked practice, all problems are drawn from the preceding lesson. With mixed review, students encounter a mixture of problems drawn from different lessons. Mixed review has 2 features that distinguish it from blocked practice: Practice problems on the same topic are distributed, or spaced, across many practice sets; and problems on different topics are intermixed within each practice set. A review of the relevant experimental data finds that each feature typically boosts subsequent performance, often by large amounts, although for different reasons. Spacing provides review that improves long-term retention, and mixing improves students' ability to pair a problem with the appropriate concept or procedure. Hence, although mixed review is more demanding than blocked practice, because students cannot assume that every problem is based on the immediately preceding lesson, the apparent benefits of mixed review suggest that this easily adopted strategy is underused.
Full-text available
This article constitutes an optimistic argument that basic research on human cognitive processes has yielded principles and phenomena that have considerable promise in guiding the design and execution of college instruction. To illustrate that point, four somewhat interrelated principles and phenomena arc outlined and some possible implications and applications of those principles and phenomena are put forward.
Thirty-five individuals who had learned and relearned 50 English-Spanish word pairs were tested for recall and recognition after an interval of 8 years. Two variables, the spacing between successive relearning sessions and the number of presentations required to encode individual word pairs, are excellent predictors of the likelihood of achieving permastore retention. Optimum recall occurs for words encoded in 1-2 presentations and accessed at intervals of 30 days. Both variables yield monotonic retention functions that account for a range of variation from 0% to 23% recall. These variables also have very significant effects on the recognition of unrecalled words.
The spacing effect would appear to have considerable potential for improving classroom learning, yet there is no evidence of its widespread application. I consider nine possible impediments to the implementation of research findings in the classroom in an effort to determine which, if any, apply to the spacing effect. I conclude that the apparent absence of systematic application may be due, in part, to the ahistorical character of research on the spacing effect and certain gaps in our understanding of both the spacing effect and classroom practice. However, because none of these concerns seems especially discouraging, and in view of what we do know about the spacing effect, classroom application is recommended.
Spacing multiple study opportunities apart from one another is known by psychologists to be a highly effective study method (see Dempster, 1996). This study examines whether including tests during study would produce practical benefits for learning beyond that provided by distributed study alone. In addition, spacing of both study and test (massed, uniform distributed, and expanding distributed) is investigated. To-be-remembered information was repeated with a single learning session (Experiment 1), reviewed immediately after initial learning (Experiment 2), or reviewed days after initial learning (Experiments 3 and 4). As expected, large distributed practice effects were shown across experiments. In addition to these effects, testing produced significant benefits for learning in all four experiments, which were of moderate or large size (Cohen's d of 0.52 to 1.30) for three experiments. Expanding test spacing, however, did not independently benefit learning in any of the learning situations studied. Educators should take advantage of the large benefits that distributed study and testing have on learning by spacing multiple tests of information within learning sessions and by distributing tests across multiple review sessions.
High school students enrolled in a French course learned vocabulary words under conditions of either massed or distributed practice as part of their regular class activities. Distributed practice consisted of three 10-minute units on each of three successive days; massed practice consisted of all three units being completed during a 30-minute period on a single day. Though performance of the two groups was virtually identical on a test given immediately after completion of study, the students who had learned the words by distributed practice did substantially better (35%) than the massed- practice students on a second test given 4 days later. The implications of the findings for classroom instruction and the need to distinguish between learning and memory are discussed.
The spacing effect refers to the commonly observed phenomenon that memory for spaced repetitions is better than for massed repetitions. In the present study, we examined this effect in students' memory for a lengthy expository text. Participants read the text twice, either in immediate succession (massed repetition), with a 4-day interstudy interval (spaced short), or with a 3.5-weeks interstudy interval (spaced long). Two days after the second study trial, all participants were tested. The results demonstrated that students in the spaced-short condition remembered more of the content than those in the massed condition. By contrast, students in the spaced-long condition remembered as much as students in the massed condition. These results were interpreted in terms of a theoretical framework, which combines mechanisms of encoding variability and study-phase retrieval to account for the spacing effect. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
In a 9-year longitudinal investigation, 4 subjects learned and relearned 300 English-foreign language word pairs. Either 13 or 26 relearning sessions were administered at intervals of 14, 28, or 56 days. Retention was tested for 1.2.3. or 5 years after training terminated. The longer intersession intervals slowed down acquisition slightly, but this disadvantage during training was offset by substantially higher retention. Thirteen retraining sessions spaced at 56 days yielded retention comparable to 26 sessions spaced at 14 days. The retention benefit due to additional sessions was independent of the benefit due to spacing, and both variables facilitated retention of words regardless of difficulty level and of the consistency of retrieval during training. The benefits of spaced retrieval practice to long-term maintenance of access to academic knowledge areas are discussed.