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Spacing and Critical Thinking

What’s this project about?  

The spacing effect is the phenomenon that occurs when learning episodes are reviewed over time, rather than in immediate succession. This has major implications for classroom learning, but needs more research if generalizations are to be made. For our SSHRC-funded research, we are conducting four classroom trials of the spacing effect on topics that have previously been shown to benefit spaced learning in small-scale studies—physics, algebra, geometry, and statistics—and two laboratory studies on topics that have not previously been investigated: computer programming and robotics design and programming. We will determine whether spaced learning improves retention of facts and critical thinking skills and whether teaching by a teacher-researcher produces equivalent spacing effect benefits as teaching by regular classroom teachers. 

How will we go about doing this project?  

We are currently running our first study in collaboration a high-school physics teacher (Dr. Barot) from the UK. Together we have designed a spacing study investigating whether spaced learning is better than massed learning for grade 7-11 students, using a "remember, use, apply" formula for physics concepts. Dr. Barot is currently implementing the project at her school.  

Who can be involved?  

We are currently running this project with the help of certified teachers (Dr. Barot and Dr. Seymour). Our laboratory studies (computer programming and robotics design) will be conducted at York University. We are always looking for the right fit for education and psychology students, and lab volunteers. Please reach out to learn more.  

What will we do with our research findings?  

We will make our lesson plans and teaching materials open access, so that teachers can use these materials in their classrooms. The project involves training and supervision of psychology students who are also certified K-12 teachers, which will increase the number of teachers able to conduct high quality research projects in school systems. Our research has direct implications for public policy, including how teachers should be trained to improve learning of their students, which will be disseminated by teaching councils and other teaching-focused organizations, under our supervision. Our research will lead to a more educated populace.  

What is the next step?  

We hope to use our research findings to make generalizations for classroom learning. 

Want to know more about this project? 

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr. Melody Wiseheart at (Principal Investigator), Dr. Faria Sana (Co-PI) at, or Dr. Vanessa Seymour (Co-PI) at