Adaptive vs. Fixed Spacing of Learning Items: Evidence from Studies of Learning and Transfer in Chemistry Education

AbstractSpacing presentations of learning items across time improves memory relative to massed schedules of practice – the well-known spacing effect. Spaced practice can be further enhanced by adaptively scheduling the presentation of learning items to deliver customized spacing intervals for individual items and learners. ARTS - Adaptive Response-time-based Sequencing (Mettler, Massey, & Kellman 2016) determines spacing dynamically in relation to each learner’s ongoing speed and accuracy in interactive learning trials. We demonstrate the effectiveness of ARTS when applied to chemistry nomenclature in community college chemistry courses by comparing adaptive schedules to fixed schedules consisting of continuously expanding spacing intervals. Adaptive spacing enhanced the efficiency and durability of learning, with learning gains persisting after a two-week delay and generalizing to a standardized assessment of chemistry knowledge after 2-3 months. Two additional experiments confirmed and extended these results in both laboratory and community college settings.

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