Before I begin I want to announce some exciting news! I just received a job as a part-time Adjunct Faculty Special Education Instructor at a local community college! It’s a great opportunity and I am really excited to help train and teach future Special Education Teachers. I’m excited to see how this new career shapes my writing and blogging process.
This new responsibility, as well as some other changes, is going to adjust my posting schedule. My goal is 1 post a month at this time. I hope to do more as I become more accustomed to my various responsibilities but I must prioritize!
So for the end of September: Deliberate Practice in the Classroom
Research in cognitive science help us understand how the brain gains and uses new information. The strategies developed using science often coincide with the knowledge and practice of the most effective classroom teachers. Of the various teaching strategies I believe two essential components to effective instruction planning includes incorporating review and deliberate practice.
With any new skill practice is essential to learning. Practice can be incorporated as deliberate activities in and out of the classroom or as daily, weekly and monthly reviews. This week I will discuss deliberate practice and homework.
Deliberate practice, also called rehearsal strategies, is one effective method at improving student performance in any subject. Deliberate practice can be incorporated into the class routines or can be an extension assignment completed as homework. The main ideas is that the practice has a main purpose and demands attention and focus. This is not the same as rote repetition. Rather, deliberate practice focuses on specific goals or areas that need reinforcement and that later will be used to develop more complex knowledge and skills.
Some benefits of deliberate practice include:
- Practice increases likelihood that information is transferred to long-term memory
- Automaticity- when knowledge becomes automatic; this allows students to use these automatic skills to solve more challenging skills
- Increases student motivation
Tips for implementing:
- Vary practice activities.
- Distribute practice over extended periods of time.
- Provide clear instructions on performance expectations and criteria.
- Before asking students to practice independently, make expectations clear and model and guide students through practice prompts, using think aloud strategies.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for students to practice before testing.
Memory needs to be associated with various stimulus (ie emotion, novelty, interactive, visual, kinesthetic) and rehearsed frequently in order to be utilized in solving higher level complex skills.
This means that we want to engage our students and use various modalities of instruction. Some specific strategies that can be incorporated into the classroom include:
- Song,rap, skit development
- Questioning techniques
- Think aloud
- Guided peer discussions
- Think pair share
- Poster summaries and illustrations
The last method of deliberate practice that has become quite controversial is homework. There is actually some good research that indicates that homework can assist students in developing skills, primarily in math. However, this does not mean more homework = better results. It’s not the amount of homework that is important, as much as the type of homework. Studies indicate that there are 3 types of homework that are most effective at helping students transfer short-term knowledge into long-term automatic skills. These 3 memory retrieval techniques help make homework more meaningful:
- Spaced repetition- information is presented and repeated over time; spread out between days, weeks, even months. See more in one of my first posts “Spaced Learning over time”
- Retrieval practice- testing/quizzing to help reinforce material. This can be done with games, sorting activities, partner flashcards. More ideas can be found in my post on engaged learning.
- Cognitive disfluency- when things are more difficult to learn, they have a tendency to stick. One approach to use in your classroom is interleaving- the idea of mixing it up when reviewing and practicing. For some more information chck out this blog post
Overall, the saying practice makes perfect is quite applicable to our student’s learning. Most prodiges, gold-medal athletes and world famous musicians spend countless hours practicing their craft, focusing on developing skills through deliberate rehearsal strategies. This same approach can be used by our students in the classroom. Ensuring that practice is incorporated into every lesson, deliberately and with purpose is essential to learning.