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Other Potentially Useful Learning Methods

Although spaced practice and retrieval practice are the most powerful learning methods discovered to date, other methods may also be helpful (however there is less available research and/or only specific types of information may benefit). Such methods that might be worth trying include:1,2

  • Self-explanation – in some cases it can be helpful to come up with explanations, in your own words, of to-be- learned concepts or ideas. Rather than solely relying on provided definitions (for example, from lectures or textbooks), create your own (while still making sure that they are accurate).

  • Interleaved practice – when you are learning two or more related concepts or skills, instead of focusing exclusively on one concept or skill at a time, it can be helpful to alternate between them (for example, if you are learning topic A and topic B, rather than practice only A on one day and only B on the next, you can practice both on each day by incorporating a mixture of the two topics or by switching back and forth between them). Examples of materials that interleaved practice can benefit include similar types of math problems (for example, calculating volumes of different shapes), easily confused grammatical tenses, and similar classes of visual stimuli.

  • Learning information using both written and graphical formats – for some types of information that were originally presented as text (such as on lecture slides or in a textbook), transforming that information into a different visual format, such as a diagram (and then studying both), can be helpful.

  • Using worked examples with practice problems – if you are learning to solve a problem type that requires the execution of a multi-step procedure (of which a common learning technique is to complete sets of practice problems), consider reviewing worked examples. A worked example is a practice problem that has already been solved (with each step of the problem-solving procedure displayed in sequence). Worked examples can be found in textbooks, solution manuals, and on instructional websites. By studying a worked example, you can better learn how a given problem type is successfully solved. Worked examples can also help you better remember the solution steps to a problem type.

Further Resources

How-To Video      

Effective Learning Techniques


Pashler, H., Bain, P. M., Bottge, B. A., Graesser, A., Koedinger, K., McDaniel, M., & Metcalfe, J. (2007). Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning. IES Practice Guide. NCER 2007-2004. National Center for Education Research.
2 Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.

Prepared by S. C. Pan for UCSD Psychology
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