Study sequence matters for the inductive learning of cognitive concepts

Faria Sana, Veronica X. Yan, Joseph A. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The sequence in which problems of different concepts are studied during instruction impacts concept learning. For example, several problems of a given concept can be studied together (blocking) or several problems of different concepts can be studied together (interleaving). In the current study, we demonstrate that the 2 sequences impact concept induction differently as they differ in the temporal spacing and the temporal juxtaposition of to-be-learned concept problems, and in the cognitive processes they recruit. Participants studied 6 problems of 3 different statistical concepts, and then were tested on their ability to correctly classify new problems on a final test. Interleaving problems of different to-be-learned concepts, rather than blocking problems by concept, enhanced classification performance, replicating the interleaving effect (Experiment 1). Introducing temporal spacing between successive problems decreased classification performance in the interleaved schedule-consistent with the discriminative-contrast hypothesis that interleaving fosters between-concept comparisons-and increased classification performance in the blocked schedule-consistent with the study-phase retrieval hypothesis that temporal spacing causes forgetting and subsequent retrieval enhances memory (Experiment 2). Temporally juxtaposing problems of concepts 3-at-a-time rather than 1-at-a-time improved overall classification performance, particularly in a blocked schedule-consistent with the commonality-abstraction hypothesis that blocking fosters within-concept comparisons (Experiment 3). All participants also completed a working memory capacity (WMC) task, findings of which suggest that the efficacy of the above study sequences may be related to individual differences in WMC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan. 2017


  • Categorization
  • Induction
  • Interleaving
  • Math learning


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