Optimizing practice scheduling requires quantitative tracking of individual item performance


Decades of research has shown that spacing practice trials over time can improve later memory, but there are few concrete recommendations concerning how to optimally space practice. We show that existing recommendations are inherently suboptimal due to their insensitivity to time costs and individual- and item-level differences. We introduce an alternative approach that optimally schedules practice with a computational model of spacing in tandem with microeconomic principles. We simulated conventional spacing schedules and our adaptive model-based approach. Simulations indicated that practicing according to microeconomic principles of efficiency resulted in substantially better memory retention than alternatives. The simulation results provided quantitative estimates of optimal difficulty that differed markedly from prior recommendations but still supported a desirable difficulty framework. Experimental results supported simulation predictions, with up to 40% more items recalled in conditions where practice was scheduled optimally according to the model of practice. Our approach can be readily implemented in online educational systems that adaptively schedule practice and has significant implications for millions of students currently learning with educational technology.

Publication Title

npj Science of Learning