Learner Engagement: Interleaving Studying


Interleaving is a technique that mixes up components of content or skill. This supports commitment to long-term memory and develops an acumen for transferring and applying new knowledge into different contexts (Lang, 2021). This is the opposite of blocking which covers one topic before progressing to the next. Blocking is ideal when starting to learn new content or skills, while Interleaving is best implemented after initial knowledge acquisition. Interleaving requires participants to continuously return to content and pull from their memory.


NYU Brightspace Quizzes

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  • Start Small:
    • Consider implementing one or two interleaving strategies. Observe participants’ experiences and performances. Then, consider if you wish to add more, refine, or remove. 
  • Communication:
    • Explain to participants what to expect and the learning benefits of interleaving. Consider mentioning in the syllabus language similar to:  Our course will have regular opportunities to return to previously covered content. You’ll develop a deeper understanding while also improving memory retention of content throughout the semester. 
      • Common examples that could be mentioned:
        • Recommend the creation of index cards that mix up previous weeks' content at specific times.
        • Quizzes with some questions on previously covered content.
  • Small Group Discussion:
    • Create time for participants to discuss their muddiest points from the session (Brown et al., 2014). Note: the muddiest point is what a participant found most unclear.
      • Ask participants to bring their muddiest points written down. Then, give participants 5 - 10 minutes to turn to a partner(s) or breakout room. You can also encourage participants to next share out with the whole class. 
  • Quizzes and Pre-tests:
    • Consider spacing out the learning by implementing frequent, small, and low-stakes quizzes. Note that Brightspace quizzes have auto-graded question types to reduce time spent on grading. 
    • Add questions mixing previous and new content; also, even consider enabling multiple attempts and the shuffle function in Brightspace quizzes. This might be more frustrating than focusing on one topic at a time, but this approach supports long-term memory retention (Lang, 2021).
    • Consider a small grade weight for these types of activities. This will encourage interleaving and scaffolding to high-stakes assessments.
  • Studying Tips:
    • Recommend participants start with blocking techniques.
    • As the semester progresses, mixing up previous and new content will strengthen its transfer, recall, and connections.
    • Consider recommending interleaving study techniques at specific and approach times. For example, before a quiz or exam.
  • Instructor Presentations:
    • Consider starting a live session by summarizing or asking a participant to summarize the last session. This is a quick way to return to and mix the previously covered content into the new content.
  • Participant Presentations:
    • Groups present on different topics within a related subject area.




Brown, Peter C., Roediger III, Henry L., & McDaniel, Mark A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Educause. https://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/blogs/2018/6/er183409quickreferencequide.pdf?la=en


Lang, J. (2021). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons.

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