Research Bites: Purposeful Practice
12 July 2018
Author: Chris Runeckles
What does it mean?
Purposeful practice is practising at the edges of your capability. It involves setting a clear goal, having several steps planned towards meeting that goal and getting regular feedback as you progress.
What does the evidence tell us?
“So here we have purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation.”
- Anders Ericsson, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
“Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.”
- Barak Rosenshine, Principles of Instruction.
Furthermore, we should also consider continuing to practise even when we believe fluency has been achieved. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham estimates that, as a rule of thumb, students need to study a new concept for at least an additional 20% of the time it took them to master it to truly embed understanding and secure retention. We need to guide and insist on this extra practice, as students are often a poor judge of their own fluency with a concept and will likely overestimate how much they will remember and underestimate how much they will forget.
How can teachers mobilise the evidence?
- Devote more time in our lessons to student practice.
- Ensure we have a good grip on students’ prior knowledge so we can push them gently out of their comfort zones.
- Start with guided practice through modelling before moving on to independent practice.
- Explicitly teach metacognitive skills to allow students to monitor and evaluate their practice.
Posted in: Blog
Tags: purposeful practice, ResearchBites