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Learning is NOT intuitive

or why what feels like good learning may not be

๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ 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 ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐˜† ๐˜„๐—ฒ ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ป ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ป'๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜„๐—ฎ๐˜†๐˜€ as ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐˜‚๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ as we think it is. Itโ€™s not what we naturally think it is.

Studies have shown that ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด, or mixing up the practice of different subjects or skills, is actually more effective than ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ, which is repeating the same thing over and over again.

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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,

๐Ÿ”น๐Ÿ”น๐Ÿ”นโ–ช๏ธโ–ช๏ธโ–ช๏ธ๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”บ๐Ÿ”บ๐Ÿ”บ while the other group mixed up the problems: โ–ช๏ธ๐Ÿ”นโ–ช๏ธ๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”บ๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”บโ–ช๏ธ๐Ÿ”น๐Ÿ”ธ๐Ÿ”น๐Ÿ”บ.

๐Ÿข 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 youโ€™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!

๐ŸŒ Here's the thing: interleaved practice feels slower and more โ€œsluggishโ€, โ€” as the authors of #MakeItStick describe it, โ€” than massed practice, and teachers and students may not see the benefits in the short term.

๐Ÿ˜ถโ€๐ŸŒซ๏ธ So with massed practice you may feel like youโ€™re improving faster, but thereโ€™s something about letting that โ€œforgettingโ€ 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.

๐Ÿ“Š And remember โ€” 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).

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