Tip #714: Why is Interleaving Important?

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“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” Stephen Covey

I was reading an article by Eric Jensen titled: “Uncovering the Secret World of High Test Performers.” www.jensenlearning.com/uncovering-the-secret-world-of-high-test-performers

He discusses five tools for teachers to use during the testing season. One of those tools is: “Interleave concepts.”

I have never heard the word before. So I looked it up (natch) to find that interleave literally means to insert pages (typically blank) between the pages of a book. But that was not what Jensen meant.

He used the term to mean mixing up, or alternately interspersing different types of problems for participants to solve rather than grouping all of the similar problems together. It’s really like taking a deck of numbered cards and shuffling face cards in at random intervals.

According to Jensen, “Interleaving concepts helps the brain detect similarities and differences.”

When I first read the word, I thought it was a mistake, that what he meant to say was to ‘interweave’ concepts. But upon researching the word ‘interweave,’ I found that it means to combine two things through weaving, or interlacing. So there is a difference. Continuing with my card metaphor, it’s like making slits in two cards and sliding them together.

I’m considering when I interleave and when I interweave.

When training trainers how to create measurable learning objectives, I have them interweave key content with active verbs based on Bloom’s taxonomy. Key content and active verbs are essential components of learning objectives, so it is necessary to interweave or interlace them.

I interleave when I ask participants to consider a learning objective and determine which learning activities will achieve the desired level of learning, provide variety, and meet the needs of different learning preferences. This requires that they look at the learning objective from different perspectives, which is also an aspect of interleaving according to Jensen.

Why does Jensen recommend that teachers interleave concepts together when designing knowledge retrieval activities? “It is one way to engage in the brain’s ‘compare and contrast’ faculties that will help [students] avoid getting fooled by a teaser on the test.”

Who knew?

May your learning be sweet.


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