Funded by the Wellcome Trust via the Education Endowment Foundation this is a first example of this scale and style of research led by and carried out in real schools, not just short term experimental groups of learners.
Alastair Gittner, Deputy Headteacher at Stocksbridge High School, a partner school of the Hallam Teaching Schools Alliance , who initiated the project said, “Spaced Learning is a potentially powerful strategy that takes what we know about neuroscience and directly applies it to a learning technique that can be used in the classroom.
Hallam Teaching School Alliance based at Notre Dame High School, in Sheffield, is delighted and honoured to be directing this ground breaking project. Together we are leading the way in ensuring that teachers engage with research and use this to inspire and inform their classroom practice.”
Yvonne Baker, Chief Executive of Myscience, which manages the Science Learning Centres, National STEM Centre and other programmes supporting STEM education tweeted: “Exciting to hear @agittner & @HallamTSA will be leading one of @WTeducation new neuroscience projects”
October 2016 Update
The first phase of the Spaced Learning Project has now come to an end and our research findings have been reported back to the funding body; the Education Endowment Foundation/Wellcome Trust.
The project has been looking into what neuroscience is now teaching us about how children actually learn - something we educational professionals should be taking seriously. The research is seeking to understand the importance of repetition in teaching to create memories that stick. That might not sound like a startling issue to any experienced teacher as we never expect children to learn something based on meeting it only once, but the research is looking into two main areas; firstly how many repeats and within what timescale are effective and secondly, and most interestingly in neurological terms, understand the importance of the nature ‘space’ between episodes of teaching.
The idea is that it is during this ‘space’ the brain needs to be distracted from the new learning while chemical changes take place in the brain leading to physical formation of what we call a memory in brain cells. The idea being tested is whether one 90 minute GCSE science lesson with 3 repeating parts split by two short distraction activities has the potential to accelerate the acquisition of learning compared to traditional teaching without the ‘spaces’ in learning. The distraction activities need to require concentration and ideally use other parts of the brain, so juggling has been used as the learner cannot continue to think about the lesson at the same time as attempting to juggle! It’s not suggested that if the findings are positive all lessons should be taught this way, but that such ‘spaced learning’ lessons could be great ways to introduce new topics, getting a lot of material across in one go that project based work could then use in future lessons to deepen learning, or as a revision tool or way to help children who have fallen behind due to missing time in education and need a short, but effective intervention.
On review of our report on this project, which was a feasibility study, the EEF will decide if they want to proceed to a full national study in the form of a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). If this goes ahead there will be a chance for many more schools to be trained in Spaced Learning and contribute data to the findings of the full study. Watch this space for news in 2017 if you are interested.
Read more here about the project in the news here: