One of the most researched, and validated, concepts in training and learning is the Spacing Effect. In short, you learn and retain more when you try to master a subject over time with deliberate practice and periodic reinforcement versus “cramming”. This seems like common sense for some people, but take a look at your training program for your performers. How is it REALLY structured?
For most organizations, we cram. We put people in a room, dump a few hours of content into their head, perhaps give them a follow up exercise, and then they are supposed to be permanent masters of the topic. The only humans I know that absorb knowledge this way are characters in the movie, The Matrix, and the technique is actually much more intrusive.
However, as the article below states, spaced learning has some misperceptions to clear up:
- Spaced learning is about repetition. It does not mean you split up the curriculum.
- It applies to learning and training. There are some things you may choose to do all at once and never worry about it again. Learning is not one of those things.
- It is not a shortcut to spending less time on training. It actually means more time, but the effect is exponential.
- Learning = rate x time. Increase the efficiency of how you learn AND how much time you spend on it.
Think of how much time and money you spend on training if you are cramming. Then think about the image of throwing money into a fireplace. Same thing. There is a better way.
- Create realistic goals and expectations
- Build repetition and deliberate practice into each segment
- Build skills in the proper order with the requisite sub skills
- Test periodically with virtual and live simulations
- Hold people accountable for training retention and application, not completion
If you’re going to study something twice (or more), you learn more by spacing the two study trials apart rather than massing them together. So don’t study something 5 times on Friday, study it every day from Monday-Friday. You will learn more. The spacing effect is one of the strongest effects in the memory literature.