Simple repetition of information does not necessarily ensure efficient learning; it must be carefully considered. Successful learning depends on a review process to reinforce the essential building blocks of information within a subject area.
Dixon, Camine, and Kamebnui (1992) identified four critical dimensions of judicious review:
- It should be sufficient to enable a student to perform a task without hesitation.
- It should be distributed over time.
- It should be cumulative, and the information should be integrated into more complex tasks.
- It should be varied to illustrate the wide application of a student's understanding of the information.
So how does a teacher select information for review, schedule review to ensure retention, and design activities to extend a learner's understanding of the skills, concepts, or strategies?
According to Dempster (1991), "spaced repetitions," in which a learner is asked to recall a learning experience, are more effective than "massed repetition," if the "spacing between occurrences is relatively short" (p. 73). As early as 1917, Edward (cited in Dempster, 1991) observed that elementary school children who studied academic information once for 4 minutes and again for 2 1/2 minutes several days later retained about 30% more information than students receiving one continuous 6 1/2 minute session. Repeated presentations of shorter time increments distributed over time should, therefore, be considered when scheduling instruction.
To develop retention, students must be given opportunities to practice and review skills and strategies. Minimally, these review opportunities must be sufficiently frequent to facilitate automatic application of the skill/strategy and sufficiently distributed to ensure that students retain the skill/strategy over time.
- Is there adequate review of the new skill/strategy within the introductory lesson?
- Examine the next three lessons and document the lessons in which the information from the current lesson is reviewed.
- Analyze the skill/strategy horizontally; that is, identify the lesson in which the skill is initially introduced and the lesson schedule in which it is reviewed.
The essence of judicious review is that new information and associated tasks are reviewed regularly and systematically. To conduct this analysis, examine the current lesson and a minimum of three to four subsequent lessons to determine whether the concept is reviewed, practiced, and applied in different tasks and contexts. When there is very little systematic review across lessons serious difficulties arise for students who have difficulty retaining new and unfamiliar information.
*Excerpted from Toward Successful Inclusion of Students with Disabilities: The Architecture of Instruction by Edward J. Kameenui, and Deborah Simmons(1999).
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