In focus: Repetition is the name of the learning game

Dr Ebbinghaus shared the theory of repetition at timed intervals to increase the level of retention in learning. More recently the term spaced learning has surfaced, which effectively hints at a similar technique. In all of my NLP training this was a technique we used to master concepts we learned that morning and explaining it back in our own language definitely assisted in layering in our knowledge.

In games, repetition of actions and activities is used for the player to familiarise themselves with how to play the game. Whether it is in-game moves or game play, most players become familiar with the way to play a game especially casual games with the assistance of a few arrow pointers and a minimal instruction aid. For board games and card games, most of us were thought rules either by friends and family members or read the rule book or watched online tutorials to master the way to play the game.

In learning in both classrooms and online, repetition is often considered boring, yet it does serve a purpose. What makes it boring and what makes learners switch off is the same material presented in the same way in the same language. However layering the learning would mean presenting the same material in different contextual circumstances or asking the learner to actively put it in their own words or images.

Timing is crucial. Repetition within the hour, 4 hours later, next day, 2 days, 4 days, a week, a fortnight. All help. Variety in the delivery message, yet aiming at the same hook in terms of knowledge is essential. If on top of that you create emotional attachment instances, the chances of information being retained become higher.

In the quest to make learning interesting with gamification, there is still a case for good old repetition. Some of the nations where learning and education is perceived to be higher, a lot of attention is paid to rote learning. I am not an advocate of bringing that back, but I do believe there is an essence in this that in order to master most skills, repetition and practise make a master.

I know for sure that my early game and gamification designs were basic and potentially lacking depth. By increasing my practise and continuing to learn from different masters I layered a new depth to my knowledge. I think the day we switch off, because we heard it all before is also the day we go backwards in terms of skill or at best remain static.

There are things I used to be great at, for example speaking French fluently and it came with regular practise. I haven’t forgotten how to speak, but my vocabulary due to lack of practise and repetition of certain words has definitely decreased. Hence gamified apps like Duolingo create a natural element of gamified repetition into their basic structure.

Learning and gamification without repetition in my view is doing the learner an injustice.

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