A study of academic performance reveals that mixing up your learning can lead to massive gains. For a long time the technique of ‘interleaving’ has been the best kept secret of researchers. Interleaving involves practising or learning different skills in a quick succession. When interleaving, tennis players might practice backhands, forehands and volleys altogether, in the same session.
If learning to play a musical instrument it could mean practising scales, arpeggios and chords altogether. As you can see this is radically different from how people normally learn. Both the tennis players and the musicians focus on a specific component of their craft before moving on. Tennis players might typically focus on their forehand, while the musicians on their scales.
“…college baseball players practised hitting three types of pitches (e.g. curve ball) that were either blocked by type or systematically interleaved.
During a subsequent test in which the three types of pitches were interleaved (as in an actual game), hitting performance was greater if practice had been interleaved rather than blocked.
A similar benefit was observed in a study of basketball shooting…” (Taylor & Rohrer, 2010)
A new study has found out the benefits of interleaving on children’s performance at maths. Researchers had groups of two, in the first group the children were taught maths the conventional way. The children learned one specific component and practised only that.
In the second group things were different. The lessons for this group consisted of assignments which included questions of a wider variety. The numbers spoke for themselves when the results came in. Students who had been practising interleaving did 25% better on a test than the other group. But that wasn’t the surprising part of the study. When tested a month later it was found out that the students who had been learning through interleaving did 76% better. Both groups had been learning for the same amount of time.
If you want to know more about the study then click on this link.