OVERLEARNING

Overlearning is a phenomenon in which learners continue to practice material beyond the point of initial mastery, with the goal of further reinforcing the material in long-term memory (Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006). This strategy has been found to be beneficial in certain contexts such as the acquisition of motor skills, but less beneficial in others such as the acquisition of basic facts.

The practice of overlearning is thought to be beneficial because it provides an opportunity for learners to further solidify the material in long-term memory. The idea is that if learners practice the material beyond the initial point of mastery, they will have more opportunity to process it and internalize it, thus increasing the likelihood that they will recall it later on. This type of practice is often referred to as “overlearning.”

The efficacy of overlearning has been studied extensively with motor skills, and research has found that it can be beneficial in this context. For example, one study found that learners who overlearned a particular motor skill performed significantly better on a subsequent task than learners who did not overlearn the material (Gobbo, Minetto, & Mazzà, 2016). This suggests that overlearning can be beneficial for motor skill acquisition.

In contrast, the efficacy of overlearning has not been as well studied with regard to the acquisition of basic facts. One study found that learners who overlearned basic facts performed worse on a subsequent test than learners who did not overlearn the material (Cepeda et al., 2006). This suggests that overlearning is less beneficial for the acquisition of basic facts.

Overall, overlearning can be beneficial for the acquisition of motor skills, but appears to be less beneficial for the acquisition of basic facts. It is important for educators to take these findings into account when designing instruction for learners.

References

Cepeda, N.J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J.T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(3), 354-380.

Gobbo, M.C., Minetto, M.A., & Mazzà, C. (2016). Overlearning improves motor performance: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 158-169.

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