Spaced repetition is also known as distributed practice. It means that you spread out the repeated tests over time. Instead of repeating the same thing over a long period of time, you repeat it at intervals. You interrupt it. You test yourself at intervals. When you spread things out over time, you learn and retain them better. If you practise every day, you learn more effectively than if you practise the same amount of time once a week. The effect of staggered repetition works when you repeat things over the course of an hour, a day, a week or any time frame. Self-testing spread out over time leads to incredible learning results. Graded repetition is harder for some because you have to remember to do it. You need some kind of routine during your practice sessions or throughout the day to really get the effect of spaced repetition.
Active recall means that after you have learned the information, you recall it from memory instead of learning it again. You are checking yourself. You don’t look at the material again. You don’t read it again. You don’t stare at it. You don’t print out a poster and stick it on your wall! You recall the information internally from your brain. The retrieval, the mental doing, is the active part. If you try to recall the information from your memory, you may remember it wrong. But you may also have it correctly. Maybe it will take you a very long time to find the answer. The act of introspection, of recalling the information, helps you to anchor the memory firmly in your mind. Once you have found an answer – and only then – check yourself. Don’t give up and just say, “I don’t know”. Think of an answer, even if it is obviously wrong. There is a lot of research on this effect going back over a century.
Associative learning is a type of learning where two unrelated elements (e.g. objects, sights, sounds, ideas and/or behaviours) are linked together in our brain through a process known as conditioning. Associative learning is something that all humans and animals do naturally. By linking elements together and creating a web of different connections, we build our memory and deepen our understanding of the world around us. If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be able to remember even the most basic things, like how to get to the local shop or that we don’t like certain foods.
A Desired Difficulty is a learning task that requires significant but desired effort, thereby improving long-term performance. It is also described as a level of learning achieved through a sequence of learning tasks and feedback that leads to improved learning and transfer. Desirable difficulty is thus the name given to a set of pedagogical practices that make learning more challenging but also more effective. These approaches may feel hard, but evidence shows that they can lead to effective learning. Students are under a lot of pressure to do well in exams, and to do so they need to learn large amounts of information. To support the learning process, teachers may be tempted to make learning activities as simple as possible to reduce the effort required from learners. However, research shows that this can be counterproductive. Incidentally, the term desirable difficulty was coined by cognitive psychologist Robert Bjork and describes the counterintuitive concept that there are learning methods that feel less effective and lead to more errors during the learning process, but lead to better performance in the long run. Spacing is one such desirable difficulty that aims to increase the amount of information to be learned. Instead of repeating the same material one after the other, learning is spread over a longer period of time. For example, instead of learning information on a topic three times in a row, a spacing approach involves learning that information for the same total length of time, but with breaks in between.
By the way, there is a second SAAD method of learning!