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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

A Tampa school studies the best way to learn



When it comes to organizing lessons, so many schools take the same approach: They block off topics into discrete units, learn them and move on to the next.

At Liberty Middle School in New Tampa, researchers are studying a different technique to see if it can make students more successful.

The NY Times reports that Liberty Middle teachers are mixing problems, homework and assignments from different but related math lessons for some students, while using the blocked method for others, to determine which nets better results.

The concept under review is called "interleaving."

“The result is that you feel you’ve learned the material really well; people prefer blocked practice, when you ask them,” Robert A. Bjork, a UCLA psychologist told the NY Times. “But they do much better on later tests when they practiced interleaved, or mixed, sets of problems or skills. It’s completely counterintuitive.”

Bjork is among the leading researchers in the subject of interleaving. You can read one of his scholarly papers on the topic here. Wired offered a more mainstream take on his work here.

The Liberty Middle study is small, the NY Times reports. But it could be the beginning of something big.

“Remember, learning is slower when you begin interleaving,” John Dunlosky, a psychologist at Kent State University, said in the article. “If you have both groups learn the material to the same level — that is, if you give the people doing interleaving a little extra time at the beginning — then the benefits of mixed practice will be even larger, I expect.”

Have you tried this mixed method? What have been your experiences?

[Last modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 9:58am]


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