Spaced learning – that is, providing a series of short learning events over time – has been proven effective for teaching facts.

But does it work for high-level concepts, too? Or do learners first need to master a critical mass of conceptual knowledge so they have a context for what follows?

One experiment found that spacing works just fine for teaching concepts.

Learners were given tasks that required conceptual thinking. For example, they were given a series of numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, x) and asked to predict the next number.

To get the right answer, they had to do more than feed back facts. They had to figure out the concept behind the series and apply it.

Those who learned these concepts over several sessions did better on a final exam than those who learned them all at once.

Source: McDaniel, M. A., et al. (2013). Effects of spaced versus massed training in function learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0032184.

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