05/11/2009

Spaced education

To counter "binge and purge" style of learning, Associate Professor of Surgery B. Price Kerfoot, M.D. ’96, Ed.M. ’00, has developed a scheme that’s more like grazing: “spaced education

During the past four years, associate professor of surgery B. Price Kerfoot, M.D. ’96, Ed.M. ’00, has developed a scheme that’s more like grazing: “spaced education.” More than 10 rigorous studies on medical students and residents using randomized trials have shown its efficacy: it can increase knowledge by up to 50 percent, and strengthen retention for up to two years. Furthermore, students report enjoying spaced education; its website (www.spaceded.com) even calls it “addictive.”

The website offers, online, the first courses structured in this mode. (Harvard has applied for a patent on the technology, and already licenses it to an Internet start-up company, SpacedEd.) The methodology, which Kerfoot, a urological surgeon, invented, breaks information down into discrete packages and then applies two learning principles that he gleaned from the psychological literature on learning and memory. The first principle is the spacing effect—“When you present and repeat information over intervals of time [as opposed to “binges”], you can increase the uptake of knowledge,” he explains. “And it’s encoded in ways that cause it to be preferentially retained.” The second principle is the testing effect: “When you present information in a ‘test’ format, rather than just reading it, long-term retention is dramatically improved.”

More here.