or why what feels like good learning may not be
🙋🏾♂️🙋🏼♀️ Have you ever felt like you're not making progress in learning something new even though you're putting in a lot of effort? Well, it turns out that 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝘄𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻 𝗶𝘀𝗻'𝘁 𝗮𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 as 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘂𝗶𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 as we think it is. It’s not what we naturally think it is.
Studies have shown that 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴, or mixing up the practice of different subjects or skills, is actually more effective than 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗱 𝗽𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗲, which is repeating the same thing over and over again.
Picture taken from: https://www.structural-learning.com/post/interleaving-a-teachers-guide
Let me give you an example: two groups of college students were taught how to find the volumes of four different geometric solids. One group practiced by doing four problems of each type in a row,
🔹🔹🔹▪️▪️▪️🔸🔸🔸🔺🔺🔺 while the other group mixed up the problems: ▪️🔹▪️🔸🔺🔸🔺▪️🔹🔸🔹🔺.
🐢 During practice, the massed group (the first one) did better, but a week later, during the final test, the interleaved group did significantly better - their performance improved by 215%! If you’re curious about the numbers: the massed practice group gave 89% of correct answers on a practice test and only 20% on the final test, while the group that used the interleaving technique gave 60% of the right answers on the practice test and 63% on the final test. How about that!
🐌 Here's the thing: interleaved practice feels slower and more “sluggish”, — as the authors of #MakeItStick describe it, — than massed practice, and teachers and students may not see the benefits in the short term.
😶🌫️ So with massed practice you may feel like you’re improving faster, but there’s something about letting that “forgetting” kick in and applying extra effort to remember that gives you a MUCH better longer-term result. It can be confusing and frustrating to switch between different topics when you're still trying to get a handle on one of them, but clearly sometimes the methods that feel slow and confusing can actually be more effective in the long run.
📊 And remember — consistency over perfection.
Tina is a professional English Teacher with a Cambridge education and 10+ years of teaching English to adults in-person and online.
She wants you and English learners like you to develop a solid understanding of what you need to do to start speaking better English faster (and not fall for English-in-a-month scams).