What I’m looking for – perhaps what we’re all looking for – are learning principles that are most likely to lead to long-term retention – even if they’re messy. In Small Teaching, Jim Lang describes a learning principle called “interleaving” that requires two things: spacing out learning sessions, and working on multiple skills simultaneously (instead of mastering one before moving on to the next). A solid body of research indicates that interleaving leads to significant improvements in learning. Even though it’s much easier to work on one thing at a time, it’s better for long-term memory to return repeatedly to sets of skills.
Lang, James M. Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. Jossey-Bass, 2016.