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There are many publications explaining advantages of spaced repetition. I found a summary of some of them here.

While a lot of studies show many advantages of spaced repetition, it is not formally applied to higher education. Why is that?

UPDATE 1: In order to clarify my question, I added a quote form this publication:

Furthermore, even after acknowledging the benefits of spacing, changing teaching practices proved to be enormously difficult. Delaney et al (2010) wrote: “Anecdotally, high school teachers and college professors seem to teach in a linear fashion without repetition and give three or four noncumulative exams.” (p. 130). Focusing on the math domain, where one might expect a very easy-to-review-and-to-space strategy, Rohrer (2009) points out that mathematics textbooks usually present topics in a non-spaced, non-mixed fashion. Even much earlier, Vash (1989) had written: “Education policy setters know perfectly well that [spaced practice] works better [than massed practice]. They don’t care. It isn’t tidy. It doesn’t let teachers teach a unit and dust off their hands quickly with a nice sense of ‘Well, that’s done.’” (p. 1547).

Rohrer, D. (2009). The effects of spacing and mixing practice problems. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 40, 4-17

Vash, C. L. (1989). “The spacing effect: A case study in the failure to apply the results of psychological research”. American Psychologist, 44, 1547 (a comment on Dempster’s article?)

By the way, I am not trying to defend this publication or the quote. I just want to figure out if people believe this is true. If yes, why policy makers do not formally incorporate spaced repetition in education systems.

UPDATE 2: I really appreciate your interest in answering my question. I think there are still some unclear points that I want to mention here:

Please read the article in my question. Then you'll see the difference between "active recall" in spaced repetition and being exposed to concepts by reading books or attending lectures in our education system. Here are a couple of quotes:

active recall is a far superior method of learning than simply passively being exposed to information. ... There are many studies to the effect that active recall is best. Here’s one recent study, “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping”, Karpicke 2011 (covered in Science Daily and the NYT) ... “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”. New York Times.

While "spiral learning" is basically the foundation of spacing, in addition spacing heavily relies on active recall. Furthermore, spacing takes advantage of chunking in designing flash cards.

Moreover, there are well-defined spacing algorithms, designed by famous psychologists like Dr. Leitner, that significantly improve the efficiency of learning. Please look at studies by Professor David Shanks and Dr. Rosalind Potts.

Finally, in response to those who think spacing only improves memorizing, please read about the results of Professor Bjork's many years of experiments, specifically "Kornell, N., Castel, A. D., Eich, T. S., & Bjork, R. A. (2010). “Spacing as the friend of both memory and induction in younger and older adults”. Psychology and Aging, 25, 498-503."

Now, do you believe schools should leave students on their own to discover efficient ways of learning, or do you believe it's better to incorporate these well-studied methodologies into the education system? As a student, I pay my school to provide me with motivation, pathways, and efficient ways of learning, rather than merely providing me with a competitive environment to prove myself for a better job in the future.

Let me clarify this: I love education, research, and even just being at school. However, I believe in considering all improvements that technology has provided for us in different aspects of our lives, and I believe our education system is too old. I believe we can apply well-studied theories of learning, knowledge, neuroscience, and psychology to our education system, through the use of technology, and really improve our education system. I am trying my best to play my small role in this regard. My main purpose of asking this question in this forum is to brainstorm with you to collaboratively and learn how to improve our education system.

1 Answer 1

There's a guy named btilly (https://stackoverflow.com/users/585411/btilly) who used SR to teach linear algebra and it went very well.

He wrote a short post about it (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=818367) and a longer one too (http://bentilly.blogspot.co.il/2009/09/teaching-linear-algebra.html).

A guy named wsprague wrote this in reply (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=819181):

The question of why is there so much crappy education is interesting. I think part of the answer is that society is well-served by the failings of the educational system in that widespread educational crappiness helps support the class system. I think it would be fairly straightforward to turn 90% of the population into well educated upper middle class types, using techniques like btilly describes...

... But if we did that, who would drink Coors and drive forklift for Walmart and not complain about it?

So I think that a huge function of the educational system is to educate a large part of the population badly. I think that the teacher training system serves this is as well, by selecting for mediocre teachers and then making them more mediocre via training. Additionally, in the schools themselves a lot of effort is made to classify young people into dumb and smart categories, usually unfairly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect), and this classification stamps them for the rest of their lives and creates a population of hopeless lower class workers.

If there are SOME good teachers in the system like btilly, then SOME kids go on to get out of their class, which is perfect in that (1) we need to claim that it is possible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and (2) we need to recruit SOME kids to grow up to fill management positions, but not too many that they all can't find careers. Historically, underemployed educated people are the people who become union leaders.

The beauty of it is that the people who fail think it is their fault!

(Sorry to rant about the educational / class system in general, rather than the topic of how to teach advanced math, but I couldn't stop myself.)

Call me paranoid, but there you go.