LEARNING.HOW...
to learn more efficiently

Much scientific research has been undertaken to understand the human brain. Herman Ebbinghaus (1885) found scientific evidence for the forgetting curve.


If you study your learning material once, but then fail to maintain it, your knowledge will fade away. Initially, this will happen very quickly, but after a few repetitions the process is slowed.

If you watch a video today, or read an article or textbook and subsequently not do anything with it, a week later 80% to 90% of the content will have been forgotten.

Repetition of learning material turns out to be the only real remedy against forgetting. Paul Pimsleur (1967) noted that the best moment to repeat is when the chance of still remembering is at least 60%. Pimsleur also determined that if the items are remembered correctly after repetition, the repetition interval may be decreased. This eventually leads to much more durable learning results.

Smart repetition

German psychologist Sebastian Leitner (1972) was the first to develop a practical application of the theory of repetition with increasing intervals. Leitner developed the hand computer.

In this system, items that are mastered correctly are repeated less frequently than items for which incorrect answers were given.

Leitner has scientifically proven that learning material is absorbed more quickly and more durable if the material is presented in manageable pieces. If as an example one hundred English words are to be learnt, this is best achieved by working in blocks of ten words each.

Does our brain function differently today than it did 500 years ago?

Aside from Leitner’s hand computer, Leitner noted that people remember better if learning material is studied in varying geographical locations.

Later this was scientifically confirmed to be caused by the way the human brain couples background sounds (think for example of a ticking clock) to making the connection between a known element (a question or math problem) and an unknown element (the answer or the solution).

If the ticking of the clock is no longer present, the brain may have trouble reproducing the connection between the known and the unknown elements. This phenomenon is sometimes apparent as a black out during a test or exam.

In learning psychology, the place and time independent learning and clever repetition of learning elements through time is called the Leitner Systeem.

Scientific evidence

From April to July 2013 a master student Educational Sciences at the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands) investigated the effectiveness of the online adaptive learning system Drillster. Drillster uses the various elements of the effective learning theory, in a learning algorithm:

The core question of this research was: Does Drillster have an effect on the user’s learning result?.

The study involved 162 participants. One group studied with Drillster whereas the control group studied the traditional way, using a text book.

The analysis of the test results has shown that participants who used Drillster as a learning aid:

  • Achieved 10% higher marks for their final test.
  • Were able to absorb the subject matter at least 40% quicker.
  • The differences were significant and no outliners were found.

So evidence was given for the fact that the effective learning elements that are outlined in this article, lead to significant better learning results. The research only covered the knowledge side of learning. Future research may also include the effective learning of skills.

Article provided by Drillster

Assessments are gaining importance, but what do we actually assess and what do we do with the assessment results? Drillster assesses and develops at the same time. This innovative approach to assessment based learning results in higher test results in less time. Would you like to know how this works? Visit www.drillster.com or contact us at info@drillster.com .