By: Miriam Bowers-Abbott
The phrase “desirable difficulties” was first coined in the nineties by psychologist Robert Bjork to describe learning conditions that introduced inconveniences to yield greater learner retention of material. According to the literature, the more work that is required to learn a concept, the greater the mastery (Sparks, 2011). To illustrate, a classical example of a desirable difficulty is found in the use of flashcards as study tools. Flashcards typically display only partial information, as a cue for the user to recall a more complete set of facts. When compared to lecture notes, flashcards require a student to work harder in recalling materials and are therefore especially effective study tools. As such, flashcards have been popular among students for decades.