As a child, my love affair with the sport of soccer helped me to develop skills, self-esteem, and friendships. Throughout high school, you could find me sporting brightly colored Pumas, juggling between classes, and joining pickup games on the weekend. I was a bit obsessed.
As an adult, I have shared my love of athletics through coaching; and I have been privileged to coach incredible, young-women throughout my life! I believe I am a better teacher because of my coaching experience and often find much of the same philosophies interchangeable. It is with this interchangeable lens I wish to approach the topic of “practice” within the classroom.
If you don’t know about Train Ugly, now is the time to start investigating. Marrying Growth Mindset and Motor Learning to Train Ugly, Trevor Ragan’s video on block vs. random practice was shared at my last AIW meeting and has inspired this blog post.
- As teachers, we aim to maximize retention and transfer of skills.
- A skill is much more than just “technique” it also includes the “reading” and “planning” before the execution.
- Very few skills in life are stagnant and repetitive in nature, but the majority of practice we request of our students is just that, skill and drill to show mastery.
- Research supports the use of random practice as a more effective way than block practice for high-impact retention and transfer of real learning!
- We need to find better ways to track progress (another resource to add in the case against letter grades).
- When practicing a skill, students need a growth mindset and randomization; never do the same thing twice (different opportunities to use skills).
- Finally, poor practice is a teacher issue, not a kid issue. We fear the uncontrollable, we want improvement but are not used to a slower process that takes more time, and we slip back into traditional practice because it is comfortable.
Reflecting back, there were many times I resorted to block practice, whether on the field and having athletes take hundreds of penalty kicks, or in the classroom, the repetitive use of worksheets to drill grammar rules; I was contributing to the transfer problem and reconfirming the notion of “work for school’s sake.” Unknowingly, and through the implementation of PBL (Project Based Learning) and the Workshop Writing Classroom my focus and practice shifted resulting in more Random Practice. When I no longer taught to “The Test” but focused on moving all students forward, the transfer ensued (even on the high-stakes tests).