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Moving From Spaced Repetition to Spaced Learning

flying cadeuciiMedical education is dynamic and constantly adapting to the needs of society. With new technological advances, scientific discoveries, and healthcare policies arising each day, the amount of information medical students are required to learn increases exponentially. Many describe the early years of medical education as a vicious cycle of cramming and forgetting with block exams, shelf exams, and board exams. Long-term retention is rarely rewarded and the integration across topics is limited. On the contrary, medicine IS a life-long learning process that is heavily dependent on the ability to attain, integrate, and apply data.

Unfortunately, time is limited, and as a result, cramming often prevails as the method of choice for many students. As medical students, we constantly find ourselves re-learning large amounts of information time and time again, always preparing for the next exam or hurdle, rather than thinking years down the line when we will be taking care of patients. This is very inefficient.

In June, Duke medical students wrote an article entitled “Want to enhance medical education? Use Spaced Repetition”. This article proposed a strategy that revolves around the cognitive technique known as spaced repetition. Spaced repetition takes advantage of time and reinforces one’s knowledge the moment before one forgets it. This technique involves reviewing material according to a schedule determined by a temporal relationship known as the “spacing effect”.

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