There’s an old rule of thumb when cooking a steak: Just when you think you should cook it a little more, stop cooking it. When it comes to learning, it’s the opposite: When learners think they’ve “got it,” do one more reinforcement.

That’s the upshot of a study of college students. They were asked to drop certain study items from their “to do” list. Once they believed they’d learned the material, they could drop the item.

Researchers found that this stopping point was premature – students usually needed one more retrieval attempt/reinforcement interval to really get it.

Basically, they get off the subway one stop too early.

Bottom line: Trainees (and all of us) will tend to think we “got it” a little sooner than we actually do. That’s why trainers need to control the reinforcement intervals. When people say they “got it,” reinforce it at least one more time.

Source: Bjork, R.A., et al. (2012). Self-regulated learning: Beliefs, techniques and illusions. White paper.

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