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Research study shows benefits of short, intensive lessons

03/04/2017 Joanna

Breaking-up teaching into short, intensive lessons could be an effective way of improving retention and learning outcomes, according to a new study.

A new teaching approach called Spaced Learning, developed by Sheffield's Hallam Teaching School Alliance and run by Notre Dame High School, has been trialled in a small development study using funding from the Education Endowment Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

The SMART spaces programme is based on insights from neuroscience and psychology that indicates information is more easily learned and recalled when repeated multiple times and separated by periods of unrelated activity.

To recreate this model in an educational setting, 2,000 pupils aged 13 to 15 attending 15 schools were given short, intensive biology, chemistry and physics lessons lasting 12 minutes each, with each session repeated twice and broken up with 'spaces', during which pupils did something completely different.

Three different versions of the programme were trialled, with the same content being delivered with spaces of ten minutes, 24 hours or a combination of both.

It was shown that the programme was successfully integrated into school timetables, with teachers finding the spaced lessons easy to deliver, while pupils appeared to respond well. Preliminary evidence also indicated that the version of the programme that used both short ten-minute and longer 24-hour spaces was the most effective.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: "In SMART Spaces, the Hallam Teaching Schools Alliance have taken findings from neuroscience research and put them to use in the classroom in a way that teachers and pupils have responded well to. The next step for us will be to find out what impact it can have on grades."

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