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H.I.L.S High Impact Learning Strategies

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. (Chinese proverb)

At Ambrose Treacy College we aspire to develop highly literate students who know how to learn, problem solve, create, critique and reflect. Improving educational outcomes requires efforts on many fronts, but a central premise involves helping students better regulate their learning through the use of effective learning techniques. Distributed practice and practicing testing in the mode of the assessment are two High Impact Learning Strategies (H.I.L.S) that could help students achieve their learning goals.

The Curve of Forgetting

Distributed Practice

In comparison to massing study prior to tests (cramming), distributed practice spaces learning over time. The curve of forgetting illustrates that information is lost when there is no attempt to retain it. Therefore, students need to continually expose themselves to the same information repeatedly. Distributing practice over time, benefits long term memory retention more than massing learning opportunities back-to-back or in relatively close succession.

Practice Testing in the Mode of Assessment

Although some students would prefer to take as few tests as possible, research indicates that practice testing enhances learning and retention of information. Recent evidence suggests that practice testing may enhance how well students mentally organise information and how well they process idiosyncratic aspects of information. Practicing in the mode of assessment provides students with essential feedback on content already mastered, gaps in knowledge and timing of responses which can be unitised by students to refocus their study.

Many factors are responsible for improving student outcomes in school and hence these learning techniques are not a solution for improving student achievement for all students. Nevertheless, when used properly, may produce meaningful gains in performance in the classroom, on achievement tests and many other tasks encountered across a life span.

Dallas Moffat
Student Development and Learning Analytics