• Question: Is there research which informs advice about the optimal amount of time between study sessions to improve pupils' factual recall?

    Asked by mcnallym to Joni, Duncan, Catriona on 15 Apr 2015.
    • Photo: Catriona Morrison

      Catriona Morrison answered on 15 Apr 2015:

      Sleep is incredibly beneficial for recall. Even a short dose of good sleep can really enhance memory. So, to set students up for an exam, I would advise them to study in the evening (on a decent meal, because we know that good food aids learning too – starvation is not wise), have a good 8/9 hours’ sleep, and eat a sensible breakfast (eggs and Omega 3s, if possible). Then they will be well primed for the exam situation.

    • Photo: Duncan Astle

      Duncan Astle answered on 9 May 2015:

      I think you are really asking about spaced versus massed practice. This is an effect that we have known about in cognitive psychology for loooooong time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacing_effect).

      The idea is that repeatedly revisiting ideas and concepts significantly helps to improve the durability of their retention. The idea is that the representation of that information drops to near zero, and then the process of reinstating that representation boosts its strength. Once this is repeated the end result is that the information is far more durable… than had you simply had all the learning in one block (without those ‘zero’ periods in between).

      24 hour delays seems popular (with plenty of research behind them)… so structuring learning to allow for these periods might be a good idea!