In researching background material for Information Design, I came across this interesting interview in Wired: Everything You Thought You Knew About Learning Is Wrong by Garth Sundem (2012). He interviews Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Professor in Cognitive Psychology, UCLA. (And he got his BA from U of M, so that's nice.)
Some interesting snippets from the article:
- "People tend to try to learn in blocks," Bjork said. "Mastering one thing before moving on to the next."
- Instead of doing that Bjork recommends interleaving. (To learn tennis, mix in a range of skills like serving, backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork.)
- Make sure the mini skills you interleave are related in some higher-order way. If you're trying to learn tennis, you'd want to interleave serves, backhands, volleys, smashes, and footwork - not serves, synchronized swimming, European capitals, and programming in Java.
- The spacing effect: If you study, wait, and then study again, the longer the wait, the more you'll have learned after this second study session.
- Bjork also recommends taking notes just after class, rather than during. You have to work for it. The more you work, the more you learn.