Monday, June 18, 2012

The Importance of Goal-Directed Practice

If you do the same things over and over, you will get the same results. General practice strategies may increase the number of repetitions on some skills and tasks but rarely do little to change mastery. Deliberate practice on specific skills serves as a predictor of continued learning in a field or hobby. Focus the practice sessions on the improvement of a specific goal, skill, or criterion. The amount of time spent in deliberate practice predicts continued learning in a field.

To begin, clearly communicate the learning goals to students. These goals should support students in what they need to do to learn. It is also important to identify an appropriate level of challenge for students. Practice that is too easy or too hard appears to do little to alter mastery.

Feedback to alter practice is important. Three important features (content, timing, and practice) seem to govern the effective use of feedback. Feedback on content should clearly and specifically focus on the knowledge and skills you want students to learn. You also want to provide some indication on their status toward the stated goals or objectives for the lesson or course. You should clearly indicate what the student needs to do to improve their performance. Time your feedback to when it will do the most good. It is usually more useful to have feedback sooner rather than later to help students progress toward a goal or objective. Provide additional practice opportunities for students while communicating progress and directing subsequent efforts. Always communicate specific aspects of a students' performance related to a goal or objective.

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