Teachers use a wide variety of instructional practices to help students retain information. Most commonly, teachers will begin a lesson or unit, assign activities/homework to reinforce important concepts, and then give a summative assessment at the end to test student mastery. Unfortunately, what occurs often is that students employ a study strategy for tests called “massed practice” or what is commonly know as “cramming”. Cramming may be an effective study strategy for the short term, just enough to get the students a decent grade on the end of the unit test. The long term retention of critical concepts is not being attained by our students.
“Spaced practice” is a strategy that can be used to force students to apply their knowledge as soon as they start to forget it. There has been plenty of research done on the effectiveness of spaced practice. One finding suggested that spaced practices over a longer period of time is twice as effective to equal amounts of massed practice by students. Sounds great, right? Now all we have to do is convince our students to stop cramming and space out their studying over longer periods of time! We all know that is easier said than done.
Think about this type of change for your classroom. Rather than assigning homework or activities immediately after teaching a concept, build in a time delay. The students are still going to practice the concepts, just on a different day from when it was taught. Even if you still want to give the assignment or activity on the same day, build in multiple attempts for students to recall these concepts, such as weeks and months later.
How can teachers help implement this “spaced practice” strategy for their students? Many teachers are already using Google Forms for formative assessments, quizzes, and tests. Google Forms has a feature that allows teachers to import questions from a previously created Google Form into a new Google Form. This option can give teachers the opportunity to build in “spaced practice” into their classes by using previously created questions. Check out the screen shots below on how to create new “spaced practice” assessments.
Step #1- Open a new Google Form and select the “import questions” button.
Step #2- Select your previously made Google Forms assessment with questions you want to use for your new spaced practice assessment.
Step #3- Click the boxes of the questions you wish to add to your new spaced practice assessment. Click “Change Form” to select a different Google Form to add additional questions.
The new “spaced practice” assessments you create can be used to space out your curriculum and build upon the important concepts you want them to know over time. All teachers are striving to have their students take the knowledge from their class with them to help inform their future learning. Think of creative ways to weave spaced practice into your schedule with homework, activities, or assignments from previous units. If we truly want students to remember something long term, it is not going to be enough to assess them only once.