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Today, I want to share with you a little bit about how the book  “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel, is making me rethink the homework habits in our family.

Practice, practice, practice doesn't always make perfect

Three of our four children have homework of varying lengths and difficulty. We usually complete assignments one subject at a time, allowing playtime or free-reading only after the job is completely finished. My thinking has always been that this is training my children to be disciplined in finishing what they start, but what I have learned from “Make it Stick” is that I may be depriving them of something more important. According to the authors, learning is deeper and retained longer when it is spaced out and interleaved with other tasks.

 Spacing out learning makes it stick

To see what I mean, let me tell you a little bit about the science. As soon as we learn, we begin to forget. When we crowd all of our learning about a topic into one session, we are primarily engaging our short-term memory, and though we may see quick improvements, those gains are also quickly lost. By spacing out learning, we interrupt forgetting and engage long-term memory. Sleeping between practice sessions is especially beneficial. Our brain connects the new ideas to our existing knowledge structures. This means that even though we may not feel that we've learned as much, we actually remember longer and can apply the knowledge in more flexible ways. And that is exactly what we want our kids to be able to do, right?  

Check back later, because I am sure that I will have more to share about this topic. I’m already beginning to think about how to apply what I have learned about purposeful reflection and self-testing, and my kindle tells me that I am only a quarter of the way through the book!


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