'It was like seeing a movie that I'd watched before'

30th January 2009 at 00:00
Lucy Barratt, 16, was one of the first pupils to take part in the spaced learning trial at Monkseaton

Who ever thought timing would be so important to teaching?

This new kind of lesson consists of three presentations that are almost exactly the same, separated by 10-minute breaks - a bit of an odd experience, but interesting.

The lessons are very compressed, so the review of the whole biology unit was eventually completed in about 12 minutes. The nervous system, diet deficiencies, hormones and the menstrual cycle, drugs, defence from pathogens - all (were taught) in slides shown at a dizzying rate of up to seven or eight a minute.

During the 10-minute breaks, we did an activity that stimulates a different part of the brain than was stimulated by the lesson - physical activities, such as basketball dribbling exercises and teamwork games.

For every traditional lesson, you need a pen, a pencil or books. But in spaced learning you have nothing in front of you to distract you.

So what happens inside your head? I can only answer for myself. I love sport, particularly extreme sports - anything that has a high risk of injury.

My sport is rock climbing. If you hang around too long before you make your next move on a climb, you lose your confidence - and you could lose your grip. You always have to be aware of what comes next, but you can't consciously think about it.

Having completed a climb - one that can take an hour or more - I can replay the whole climb in my head in seconds, seeing everything I've done.

For me, spaced learning was a bit like climbing. I didn't try to learn; I didn't write anything down; and I didn't review. Even when the information was being repeated, I didn't consciously think about my first presentation.

It just seemed as if I was seeing a movie in my mind that I had already seen before, and my understanding of the information became more precise - clearer - when I saw it again.

During the breaks, I focused on the instructions for the physical activity. In the end, I was left with a movie like my memory of a climb.

It seems to me, if this technique is adopted by schools, it could change education forever!

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