Cases where immediate review is more efficient.

Learning Method

This section explains how to study to achieve your goals in an efficient manner.
Previously, we have introduced the timing of review and the learning method using the dispersion effect.

So far, we have explained how effective distributed learning is compared to centralized learning.
However, in this article, I will show you a case where you can learn more efficiently through intensive study.

For learning content that you don't understand well, do intensive study first!

In contrast to the “distributed learning” recommended so far, the learning method of reviewing immediately after learning is called “intensive learning.
In fact, there are times when focused learning can be properly useful.
That's when you feel that you still don't fully understand or remember well what you have studied.
In such cases, you should review immediately after learning.

Of course, even if you study intensively and understand the material properly, if you don't do anything until the test, you will forget all about it.
Therefore, review through distributed learning is naturally necessary.
To sum up, it is better to do intensive learning of the content that you feel you do not understand well, and then do distributed learning of the content that you already understand well or have completed intensive learning of.

But what content should be focused on and what content should be distributed?
Who will decide that?
Can I make a decision based on my own intuition?

Here is an experiment that addresses these questions.
Son, L.K. (2010) Metacognitive control and the spacing effect.
Participants in the experiment (university students) learned to memorize the spelling of difficult words.
Then, for each word, I chose whether I wanted to focus on it (review it immediately) or distribute it (review it after a while).
However, in this experiment, I was able to review one group of words in the way I chose, but I had to review another group of words in a different way than I chose.

Can I decide for myself which content to distribute?

Experimental Methods

Participants in the experiment (31 university students) were tasked with learning to memorize a difficult word (60 words).
After learning each word, students chose for each word whether it would be reviewed through intensive learning or distributed learning.
In focused study, review the word immediately; in distributed study, turn the word to the end of the review list.
In this experiment, 2\3 words were reviewed in the way the participants wanted, but for the remaining 1\3 words, their wishes were ignored and they were forced to use the opposite method to the one they had chosen.
A similar experiment was conducted with elementary school students (42 students).

experimental results

In the case of intensive learning, there was no difference in results between self-selected and forced choice.
In the case of distributed learning, however, the test scores improved only when the students made their own choices.
In other words, if you think “I don't understand it yet, so I should study it intensively,” you won't see the effect of distributed learning, and the effect of distributed learning will only appear when you think “I should study this content intensively instead of intensively.

What you don't understand, you know best.

The results of the experiment showed that when students chose their own review methods, the effects of distributed learning were well evident and test scores were better.
However, when I used a review method that was the opposite of what I intended, the effect of distributed learning disappeared completely.
The results showed that it is better to choose what to review and how to review it.
The same results were obtained when children in grades 3-5 were asked to participate in the experiment.
“The term “metacognition” is used to describe our understanding of ourselves, such as “what do I know and to what extent do I know it?
In the upper grades of elementary school, metacognition is already well established.
Trust your own metacognition and come up with a review plan.

Finally, let me explain why distributed learning is so effective.
Suppose you have memorized some thing A.
You may think that the content of A will be stored in your brain the moment you learn it, but surprisingly, this is not the case.
No matter what it is, whether it is study, sports skills, or daily life, it takes time for the brain to remember.
Therefore, repeating a review of A immediately after memorizing A does not mean that it has been memorized well.
Instead, it is more effective to review A when your brain is working “secretly” to remember A well, i.e. a few days after you have learned A.
This is because the review will help the brain to work secretly, resulting in a more solid memory.

What you need to know to study efficiently

  • The basic principle is distributed learning. However, sometimes it is necessary to use both distributed learning and intensive learning.
  • If you don't understand it well, intensive study with immediate review is effective.
  • The most accurate way to determine how to use it is to do it yourself.
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