Big Ideas: Interpolated Learning (Knowledge Checks)

Remembering to develop ourselves is just as critical as developing others.  With that in mind, from time-to-time when I encounter something new or something that makes me stop and think, I like to think out loud with you.  Today, let’s think about interpolated learning.  In our context as learning and development professionals, interpolation is the act of inserting an action or remark that interrupts.Picture of a checkmark over the word check to indicate knowledge check.

So why are we thinking about this?  A group out of Harvard’s Department of Psychology researched a problem where students self-reported that they were struggling to sustain their attention when participating in online lectures or flipped learning.  The Harvard team tested inserting memory tests into the lectures to reduce mind-wandering.  The results revealed that incorporating memory tests into the learning content itself resulted in more learning retention and higher scores on the final cumulative test. They also learned that these frequent memory tests reduced test anxiety.

The idea of mind-wandering is not limited to students.  Adults battle with diminishing attention spans that affect work and learning.  And we all know that test anxiety doesn’t stop when you graduate.  Professional organizations are developing technology standards and incorporating them into professional rules of conduct. Businesses who work with other businesses are expecting their partners to maintain a certain level of digital literacy. In some instances, clients are auditing the technology skills of the companies they hire.

Why does the idea of short memory tests work?  The science behind the results is the act of retrieving information and how it reinforces the information in our brain.  If you are part of the client family at TutorPro, you’ve probably heard me talk about the importance of practice and formative assessment (assessing while learning) and how our brains make stronger connections to information when we try to remember something.  You’ve probably also heard me talk about using the Knowledge Checks that are part of TutorPro’s eLearning content to accomplish this.

How can you put the idea into practice?  Incorporate short, targeted knowledge checks into your learning paths and allow your learners to retake the knowledge checks as many times as they need to feel comfortable with the new information.  The idea is that the knowledge check is a very short memory test of specific content.

Let us know if you have incorporated short memory tests into your learning programs.  We’d love to hear your stories.


About the author: Tami Schiller

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