The effect of distributed practice on students' conceptual understanding of statistics

L.M. Budé*, T. Imbos, M.W. van de Wiel, M.P.F. Berger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study the effect of the reduced distribution of study activities on students' conceptual understanding of statistics is investigated in a quasi-experiment. Conceptual understanding depends on coherent and error free knowledge structures. Students need time to construct such knowledge structures. A curriculum reform at our university resulted in statistics courses which were considerably shortened in time, thereby limiting students' possibility to distribute study activities. Independent samples of students from before and after the reform were compared. To gauge conceptual understanding of statistics, students answered open ended questions in which they were asked to explain and relate important statistical concepts. It was shown that the reduction of distributed practice had a negative effect on students' understanding. The finding that condensed courses make it more difficult for students to reach proper understanding of the subject matter is of interest for anyone who is engaged in reforming curricula or designing courses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Statistics education
  • Distributed practice
  • Spacing effect
  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Problem based learning


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