Spaced Practice: Big Changes from Small Steps
“Intermittent Reinforcement.” Also called “Spaced Practice” – a gift to give yourself for 2015. Forget New Year’s resolutions. Forget promising yourself that you’ll NEVER do this or ALWAYS do that. And forget about learning a new habit or behavior by repeating it again and again in one “massed practice” – one large chunk of time.
Instead, “get tiny.” Focus on the small steps, the tiny bits and pieces of time. Say you want to learn how to play the piano in 2015. Instead of setting aside thirty minutes to practice each day (a feat which can be quite challenging when your daily schedule is already crammed), set aside just ten minutes three times during the day: before you leave for work, when you get home, and just before bed. Why? Because brain research demonstrates that this kind of spaced practice helps build skills more effectively than massed practice in one sitting.
The same goes for exercise. While a 30-minute walk can get your heart-rate up and will do you a world of good, three 10-minute walks seem to give pretty much the same benefits, health-wise. Plus, they have an added benefit: a release of endorphins or “pleasure chemicals” in your brain that stay with you throughout the day because you spaced the practice time.
The benefits of spaced practice also apply to learning and memory. Spaced practice over the course of one day of training is better than one long practice activity at the end of the day. Spaced practice can be bits of review time: a minute here, two minutes there.
Examples of one-minute review activities are: a one-sentence verbal or written summary by the learners, a question for all learners to answer, learners calling out ten facts about the topic, learners participating in a one-minute paired discussion about the content just covered.
Your training participants will learn more – and remember more – when you use spaced practice during your classes and training programs.
Meanwhile, back to 2015 and you. Want to change a bad habit or begin a beneficial one? Think intermittent reinforcement. Spaced practice. Get tiny. Use bits of time to make small changes in your diet, exercise, health, or well-being. Whatever you want to change for 2015, do it in small, incremental steps. And be sure to reward yourself when you do! Happy New Year to you and yours!