Spreading the Words: A Spacing Effect in Vocabulary Learning

Nicole Goossens*, Gino Camp, Peter Verkoeijen, Huib Tabbers, Rolf Zwaan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    The spacing effect refers to the frequently observed finding that distributing learning across time leads to better retention than massing it into one single study session. In the present study, we examined whether the spacing effect generalises to primary school vocabulary learning. To this aim, children from Grade 3 were taught the meaning of 15 new words using a massed procedure and 15 other new words using a spaced procedure. The 15 words in the massed condition were divided into three sets of five words, and each set was taught three times in one of three learning sessions. In the spaced condition, learning was distributed across the three sessions: All 15 words were practised once in each of the three learning sessions. At the retention tests after 1 week and after 5 weeks we observed that the meaning of spaced words was remembered better than the meaning of massed words.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)965-971
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
    Issue number8
    Early online date27 Sep 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • learning strategies
    • memory
    • spacing effect
    • vocabulary learning
    • distributed practice


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