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Learning Fast and Slow

Adult students performed better in an intensive course (110 hrs in 5 weeks) than in an extensive course (110 hrs in 7 months) in language education programs.

🤔 But, there’s also evidence that learning a complex skill like a new language slowly and steadily improves our memory due to repeated exposure to materials over time (Spacing Effect).

💡 One consensus is that people learning a new skill like a language will benefit from first intensively studying until they are conversational, then transitioning to continuous/period review instead of just studying 30 minutes per day from the start. I personally prefer to learn this way.

I wonder about the impact of intensive versus extensive learning experiences. Do students in UX design bootcamps forget more than their college counterparts who spread design classes over four years? Is a 21-day racial equity challenge worse for anti-racist thinking than training taken over a year?

How do you prefer to learn?


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Hinger, B. (2006). The distribution of instructional time and its effect on group cohesion in the foreign language classroom: A comparison of intensive and standard format courses. System, 34(1), 97–118.

Serrano, R., & Muñoz, C. (2007). Same hours, different time distribution: Any difference in EFL? System, 35(3), 305–321.

Zerr, C. L. (2018). Learning Efficiency: Identifying Individual Differences in Learning Rate and Retention in Healthy Adults - Christopher L. Zerr, Jeffrey J. Berg, Steven M. Nelson, Andrew K. Fishell, Neil K. Savalia, Kathleen B. McDermott, 2018. Psychological Science.

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