In 1913, Ebbinghaus demonstrated that spacing learning out over time creates much more efficient learning than cramming a learning task into a single intense session. Now, a new discovery has been made for a specific spaced-learning strategy that so far is the best of all. In reviewing this new design, Kelley and Whatson (2013) point out experiments showing that this kind of spaced learning is optimal for information encoding and for activation of the genes needed to form long-term memory.
And what is the design? The idea begins with the established notion that a given learning task should be “chunked” so that it can be studied in a short time, on the order say of 20 minutes. What is novel about the new design is that a given chunk is studied three times in a single session, with two intervening “rest” periods of 10 minutes in which there is little mental activity. During the rest periods, physical activity, like shooting hoops or cycling, seem to be ideal. The reason for these intervening rest periods is that thinking about new information or performing mental tasks creates interference with the memory-forming processes already under way.