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Retrieval practice over the long term: Should spacing be expanding or equal-interval?


If multiple opportunities are available to review to-be-learned material, should a review occur soon after initial study and recur at progressively expanding intervals, or should the reviews occur at equal intervals? Landauer and Bjork (1978) argued for the superiority of expanding intervals, whereas more recent research has often failed to find any advantage. However, these prior studies have generally compared expanding versus equal-interval training within a single session, and have assessed effects only upon a single final test. We argue that a more generally important goal would be to maintain high average performance over a considerable period of training. For the learning of foreign vocabulary spread over four weeks, we found that expanding retrieval practice (i.e., sessions separated by increasing numbers of days) produced recall equivalent to that from equal-interval practice on a final test given eight weeks after training. However, the expanding schedule yielded much higher average recallability over the whole training period.

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