Is it possible to learn the whole of the Atomic Structure topic in Physics GCSE in one hour?

We are running a research project into the effectiveness of spaced learning in physics and we would love to have your school on board. We have teamed up with Download Learning, which develops spaced learning units to condense large amounts of content and deliver it through three short inputs spaced by two 10-minute breaks where students’ brains are engaged in activities unrelated to the main body of the lesson. The duration of the Download session is 1 hour, but it will deliver the whole content of the Atomic Structure topic in Physics GCSE.

We are looking to structure our study across 10 schools with three classes in each school according to the following model. We are hoping to start our research project in the autumn term of 2022.

If your school teaches Atomic Structure in Year 10:

  • Control group - a Year 10 class that has not learnt about Atomic Structure yet
  • Study group 1 - A Year 10 class at the start of the academic year that has not learnt about Atomic Structure yet who will learn the topic only through the spaced learning resource and activities during a one-hour lesson
  • Study group 2 -  A Year 10 class that has not learnt about Atomic Structure yet who will access the spaced learning resource and activities during a one-hour lesson and will receive traditional teaching of the topic

The study cycle is outlined by the diagram below.

Study Cycle Model A

We designed this study to enable us to assess the effectiveness of the spaced learning approach and compare the outcomes with a control group that will not have the Download Learning session as part of their teaching (the control group). Study group 2 will give an interesting insight into how spaced learning coupled with traditional teaching impacts on students’ recall and knowledge and understanding of Atomic Structure. Since this group will also receive traditional teaching on this topic, they will not be negatively affected in any way by our study. Study group 1 will give an important insight into the effects of spaced learning in groups that only receive the 1-hour spaced learning stimulus, because they will receive the Download Learning session and complete our test before they begin Atomic Structure through traditional teaching. All three groups of students will have access to the same learning resources upon completion of the Spaced Learning trial.

We will ask the classroom teachers to hand out tests numbered according to the position of each student in their classroom register, so we will not have any way to identify students and so that each test can be matched to the same student. Student names will not be shared with the Institute of Physics to protect their identity from personnel external to the schools involved in this study.

The classroom teachers will be invited to a 30-minute webinar where we will explain the aims of the project and the logistics involved. This webinar will be recorded, so teachers who cannot attend will be able to watch it at a later date. The Institute of Physics will mark all the tests submitted by schools to ensure consistency of marking and to remove the burden of this from the participating teachers.

We will also ask the teachers involved in the study to sign a consent form to enable the Institute of Physics to use the results of this study in academic publications. A consent form will also be signed by a member of the senior leadership team of each participating school. These forms will outline the principle that schools and/or individual teachers will be able to terminate their involvement in this study at any time, should they deem it necessary for any reason.

If you are interested in taking part in this opportunity to engage with educational research, please email


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