Studying information or practicing problems over sessions that are spaced in time (A1....A2.....A3) results in better learning than if the sessions are grouped together into a single session or closely timed sessions (A1A2A3). Studying related concepts in an interleaved fashion so that a problem is followed by a different problem type (A1B1C1B2C2A2C3A3B3) leads to higher learning gains than if practicing problems grouped by types (A1A2A3B1B2B3C1C2C3). Although spacing and interleaving can be separated into two different interventions, interleaving results in the spacing of the same problem types. Therefore, interleaving and spacing practice are linked and often used together (A1B1C1....B2C2A2....C3A3B3). Although spacing and interleaving can mean slower initial learning, they result in both increased retention and better ability to descriminate problem types.
- Space how often content/concepts are reviewed or recalled across weeks and months.
- Distribute alternative assessments to cumulative exams and problem sets throughout the semester.
- Consider giving an alternative assessment, such as a video submission in Canvas, where students must synthesize content from across the semester.
- Review concepts covered in previous class periods/modules at the beginning of each class.
- Think about having students use Piazza to discuss problems/content, and see what common areas of confusion emerge so you can review that content in the next class or recitation. Similarly, you could employ polling (like Poll Everywhere) during class to gauge how students are relating to the material, and use the results to provide more explanation/clarification on concepts.
- Give timely and actionable feedback on student work, encouraging students to act on the feedback for the next spaced opportunity.
- Instructors can use SpeedGrader in Canvas to leave robust feedback on an intermediate draft of a paper or project via annotations, video/audio comments, and rubrics. Students can then make improvements to their paper or project based on this personalized, actionable feedback.
- Rearrange the order of practice problems in problem sets and exams as opposed to ordering problems by type.
- Consider using Gradescope, which makes it easy to re-use rubrics for similar problem types. This can facilitate the grading of exams or psets with mixed questions.
Each learning sequence in the course's MITx site begins with a connection to the previous learning sequence, which helps students make connections between core concepts.
7.03 Genetics | Gerry Fink & Peter Reddien:
Halfway through the semester, students were assigned a "Lab Practical Assignment" which combined more than half of the concepts covered in the semester, presented as a multi-step simulated laboratory assignment. In this assignment, students were provided with a set of mutant strains isolated after a genetic screen. Using a genetics experiment simulator, StarGenetics, students performed a series of genetic analyses covered throughout the semester to uncover the genetic basis for these mutations.
Students in Prof. Gore’s 8.591 course complete questions online via Google Form alongside pre-class readings. This informs what Prof. Gore covers the next day in lecture, which he begins by sharing a summary of three takeaways from the material. Read more about concept review and measuring student understanding in 8.591 here.
In Prof. Craig Carter’s 3.039 course, students create two 4-minute videos in lieu of a traditional final exam. This assessment format encourages students to be deliberate about demonstrating what they learned, a process that emphasizes reflection on learning and synthesis of material from across the semester rather than “cramming” content. Read more about video assessments in 3.039 here.
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