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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Hudson-Weeks

Study Skills Series: Distributive Practice

Updated: May 4, 2023

At Empower, we focus our work around helping students develop executive functioning (EF) skills. One EF skill that is essential to our work is planning. We know how important planning is, so this month, we are focusing our coaching on this skill and sharing strategies with our students to promote this work!

Our students grow to understand that creating a well-developed plan is essential for academic success; thus, we often begin our work there. From the first session, our students are asked about their relationship with planning and organization. The goal here is to ensure that we work with the student to create a functional system for that student’s planning habits during our coaching sessions.

"I learned that I can get better with organization by setting goals and striving to reach them. I also learned that setting alarms can help with planning and remembering things."

- Coaching Feedback from one of our current students

Since planning is so essential to our work, I wanted to take a moment to share one of our favorite strategies for planning here at Empower – Distributive Practice!

Distributive practice is defined as a learning strategy that focuses on numerous short sessions of practice over a long period of time [Source: Prodigy Game]. Distributive practice involves repetitively reviewing information, typically on the same subject, with breaks in between. Distributive practice and retrieval practice go great together!

How does it work?

  1. Initial introduction to materials: Consider this the moment where students meet the material that they will grow to learn over some period of time

  2. Spacing: It’s essential to follow up on initial instruction with some time to retain the information

  3. Retrieval practice: Ah! Here again, we see the benefits of retrieval practice. For this step, students will focus on remembering what they learned.

  4. Repeat! Students will then begin the process over again over a period of time.

The Distributive Practice process (pictured below)

What are the benefits?

Studies show that students who use distributive practice, also called spaced repetition, retain more information for longer periods of time. [Source: Prodigy Game]

They are more likely to move information from short-term memory to long-term memory, which helps to actually learn the material.

Students develop critical thinking skills by being able to work with information versus simply memorizing it.

How can I put this into practice?

You could start by...

  • Creating a schedule for reviewing information.

How frequently will you review your material? When? Add it to your calendar/agenda for support.

  • Finding a suitable method for organizing information

For example, you could create flashcards or Quizlets to house the information you need to retain, then use it as a tool for reviewing!

  • Creating positive reinforcement around the task!

Celebrate small successes and your consistency along the way.

  • Setting a reasonable duration for reviewing material.

Most kids only retain information for the number of minutes that equate to their ages. For instance, a 15-year-old can only be expected to reasonably focus for 15 minutes, so keep that in mind when setting a study duration.

[Source: Farnam Street]

Book a call with us to discuss how we can help your student plan out their academic lives!

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