The wheels on the bus …

If you have or have had young children, I am quite sure that you will have completed the sentence in the title without even trying – whether you wanted to or not!  The chances are you will never forget this song too!

There are two main reasons that children relate to this song and are able to sing along very quickly.

  • It has a catchy tune – maybe too catchy
  • It is repetitive – easy for children to pick up

This is often how children learn – the repetition helps the tune and words stick in their minds – just like it has stuck in yours.

Repetition in Learning.

Repetition is something that is very useful for learning but it is important that when we introduce repetition, that it is appropriate repetition.  There is a big difference between appropriate and inappropriate repetition.

A possible example of inappropriate repetition is trying to learn by rote like the old-fashioned language classes at school. Do you remember “Ecoutez et Repetez” whilst learning French – how much engagement was there? And whilst learning by rote has some merits, it is often tedious to the learner.

The best learning occurs when appropriate repetition occurs i.e. when it is applied in a situation and context that is relevant to the learner or that supports their learning. Many language courses today try to introduce meaningful repetition by using scenarios such as conversations in a restaurant or in a hotel and by introducing the same content but from a different perspective using a different delivery mechanism, for example using video or audio as well as text and image based flash cards.


Using knowledge checks and assessments

Another powerful way to introduce appropriate repetition is by using knowledge checks throughout the learning and then a set of final assessment questions at the end. As well as re-enforcing what has already been learnt, these also help people learn from their mistakes and successes. Going over the same information or ideas, at spaced intervals, can also help this knowledge to be saved in the learner’s long-term memory.

When rote memorisation of facts is all that is required (and sometimes it is), the questions do not necessarily need to be contextual and are more of a stimulus and response effect. However, introducing scenarios and scenario based questions into the learning can help lead to deeper learning. Also, enabling learners to interact with images and interactive content helps take them beyond simply acquiring facts to improving knowledge acquisition and retention

It may not be appropriate to expect your learners to go through your content once, take an assessment and then remember it forever.  You need to think about supporting the learning with multiple tools and methods to make the learning more “sticky” and consider providing periodic re-enforcement of the knowledge learnt.

Use a variety of tools to introduce repetition.

There are many ways that key knowledge elements can be repeated and delivered in different ways and still keep it interesting. Creating a meaningful connection between the content and the learner helps with retention and also with retrieval. We can repeat this content connection by using a mixture of learning tools to re-enforce what the learner has covered.




Consider using:

  • eLearning courses – make them engaging and interactive
  • Video and audio clips – to involve the different senses
  • Knowledge checks and assessments – to engage the brain in pro-active thinking
  • Image and text Flash Cards – associating words with images
  • Posters – for visual representations that can be seen throughout the day


Contrary to what many people think, repetition doesn’t need to be tedious. You can introduce repetition by varying the content and tools used and introduce further repetition by reviewing information through knowledge checks and quizzes. Why not try building repetition into your next course?

By the way, what colour was the bus?

I hope this article has stimulated some thoughts around using appropriate repetition to support your learners.

If you would like to see how we use repetition in the content we have developed for other organisations, then please get in touch. 

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About the Author

Terry Simmons

Terry Simmons

Terry Simmons is the founder of eLearning Plus, an organisation dedicated to helping organisations engage with their learners for a Smarter Business. eLearning Plus works across the UK and Internationally to help organisations with bespoke and generic course development. eLearning Plus also designs tools and training materials that support learning as well providing technology solutions to manage learners and course delivery. Terry's LinkedIn Profile