Elizabeth Bjork and Robert Bjork, ‘Making things hard on yourself but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning.’ M. A. Gernsbacher et al (ed) Psychology and the real world: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society, pp. 56-64


Just because you know, understand or can do something now, doesn’t mean you’ve learnt it.  The desirable difficulties which enhance learning are:

  • ‘Varying the conditions of practice’ – this can be as simple as studying the same material in two different places but can also mean not just practising the thing you want to learn but also engaging in related tasks.
  • ‘Spacing study and practice sessions’ – this is the same as distributed practice, which I have discussed elsewhere.
  • ‘Interleaving the practice of separate topics or tasks’ – those who engage in blocked practice tend to think it results in better learning, but whilst it may yield decent results in the short term it does not have long term efficacy. Why?  The Bjorks suggest two reasons why interleaving might be more successful.  (1) Interleaving causes learners to think about the similarities and differences between the things being studied, which…

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