Interleaving means practicing or learning different skills in quick succession. When interleaving, tennis players might practice forehands, backhands and volleys altogether. Interleaving for musicians could mean practicing scales, arpeggios and chords all in the same session.
It’s quite a different method to how people normally learn.
Tennis players typically focus on forehands for a session and musicians on scales for a session. The benefits have been shown in studies of motor skills:
“…college baseball players practiced hitting three types of pitches (e.g. curve ball) that were either blocked by type or systematically interleaved. During a subsequent test in which the three types of pitches were interleaved (as in an actual game), hitting performance was greater if practice had been interleaved rather than blocked. A similar benefit was observed in a study of basketball shooting…” (Taylor & Rohrer, 2010)
A new study, though, shows the dramatic benefits of interleaving on children’s performance at math. For the research some kids were taught math the usual way. They learned one mathematical technique in a lesson and then practised it. A second group, however, were given assignments which included questions requiring different techniques. The results were impressive.
On a test one day later, the students who’d been using the interleaving method did 25% better. But, when tested a month later, the interleaving method did 76% better. That’s quite an increase given that both groups had been learning for the same amount of time.
The only difference was that some learned block by block and others had their learning mixed up. One of the potential drawbacks of the technique is that it can feel harder at first. Instead of concentrating on one skill at a time, you have to work on two or more. But interleaving probably works because it forces the mind to work harder. Instead of relying on learning a system and sticking with it, the mind has to keep searching and reaching for solutions.
The research was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (Rohrer et al., 2015).
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues.
He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.