The Spacing Effect and the Peer Learning Group Model

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Successful learning retention is based on repetition. The spacing effect refers to the finding that learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session. Information, which is presented over spaced intervals, is learned and retained more easily.

We all probably remember cramming for some test and then immediately forgetting what we had jammed into our brains. When we attend a traditional of training course one or more days, we can’t absorb and retain everything. Very often we are only able to remember what we learned last (the principle of recency). These are two examples of massed learning that occur in a single session.

Repetitions that are spaced over time produce better long-term remembering than the exact same repetitions spaced over a shorter amount of time or massed all together. What does this have to do with the Peer Learning Group Model? Well, the Model incorporates and builds on the spacing effect. It presents the smallest amount of information possible that will produce the desired outcome and then continually reinforces it through multiple spaced repetitions.

Bite-sized information is provided and discussed by the six managers in a peer learning group during the first 90-minute session. It is during the practice time in the interval between sessions 1 and sessions 2 that the spacing effect comes into play.

First, a microlearning tip is sent to the participants once a week for the four weeks of practice. This keeps the information fresh in their minds to reinforce the learning and provides the first set of repetitions.

Second, the participants meet with their peer partner to discuss their progress once a week for the four weeks. This serves to again refresh the information through discussion about the learning. This provides the second set of repetitions.

Third, the participants journal their progress every week, which provides the third set of repetitions.

And fourth, when the participants convene for the second 90-minute session, they report and discuss their practice experience. This provides the fourth repetition.

Together with the weekly microlearning tips, peer partner discussion, and journaling, the second session concludes a total of 13 repetitions in the space of one month.

The Peer Learning Group Model materials present the smallest amount of information possible that will produce the desired outcome.

The spacing effect provides one more reason why peer learning groups are effective management development alternatives.

For more information about peer learning groups, please visit

Deborah Laurel                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Peer Learning Institute

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