Before speaking of the spaced repetition system, an introduction to neurology.
Learning and synapse
In neurological terms, learning refers to establishing neural connections. When I receive new information, neurons connect to each other via synapses, and synaptic connections are created. The more I receive this information, the more the connections will be reinforced, and the easier I will have to remember this information in the long term. The more I repeat the information, the easier it is to retain it effectively. Considering this, what is an error from the neurological point of view? An error is a bad synaptic connection. For example, I learn a language, if I can not remember the new words, it means that the neurons responsible for this activity are not well connected to each other, the connections are too weak. Learning from mistakes is fundamental to weaken bad connections and strengthen good connections. It is therefore essential to understand why I make mistakes, it is necessary to understand them as soon as possible if the wrong connections become stronger and become more difficult to erase. The errors are the result of erroneous connections that have not been erased or have not disappeared. New connections between neural networks can be established or strengthened, but they can also weaken and disappear. The disappearance of connections is called synaptic pruning. A connection weakens or disappears either because we have learned from our mistakes, or because we have assimilated more relevant information that solicits another neural network (we then created a new neural trace), either because our activity has changed and no longer solicits the neural networks that we want to eliminate. One could summarize this last point by "the brain only wears itself when it is not used"!
The connections between neurons allow us to memorize and succeed what we do.
Spaced repetition system
It is a learning technique based on regular revisions. Regular repetitions spaced in time, which make forgetting more and more slowly. The more information we know, the more time between repetitions will grow. It is a very powerful technique, because adapted to the functioning of our brain.
This method is based on an observation:
- Human memory is not perfectly reliable and we often forget what we have learned.
- On the other hand, forgetfulness is rarely total, and if one learns again what one has already learned, one forgets less quickly.
- If we revise a notion every time we are about to forget it, we realize that we need less and less often to revise it.
It is difficult to predict the moment when we forget the notion, but the principle (space repetitions each time we test the memory and that it is intact) can be applied easily.
This means that we need to focus on short learning sessions with frequent breaks to better assimilate new and complex data. The break allows the synapses to consolidate and thus retain the information more effectively.
What to do during these breaks?
Above all, nothing needs to be learned again as this can disrupt the connections that are forming. The break should not be a relaxing moment cut off from learning, but a moment of relaxation that promotes data consolidation. They make it possible to better record information while making learning enjoyable. Facilitated assimilation, the learner takes confidence in his abilities, which increases his motivation. He is more present to what he does, so he is attentive. As he is more attentive, he memorizes better, then he forms a circle of virtuous learning.
Thomas Ricomard specializes in teaching French as a foreign language. He has been providing private lessons since 2015, both in-person and online (via Skype). He taught at the Popular University of the Canton of Geneva (Switzerland) from 2015 to 2018, instructing several groups of 20 students from around the world (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, etc.), ranging from beginner to intermediate levels (A1 to B2). With a Master’s degree in clinical and cognitive psychology from the University of Geneva, his knowledge of psychology allows him to tailor his teaching methods for optimal learning, taking into account factors such as visual memory versus auditory memory. He expresses his passion for the French language through writing texts, including poetry and songs, which he presents publicly at numerous music and slam events.