Cover Image
close this bookTeaching (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 34 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentOfficers of the International Academy of Education
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. A supportive classroom climate
View the document2. Opportunity to learn
View the document3. Curricular alignment
View the document4. Establishing learning orientations
View the document5. Coherent content
View the document6. Thoughtful discourse
View the document7. Practice and application activities
View the document8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement
View the document9. Strategy teaching
View the document10. Co-operative learning
View the document11. Goal-oriented assessment
View the document12. Achievement expectations
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences
View the documentThe International Academy of Education

7. Practice and application activities

Students need sufficient opportunities to practise and apply what they are learning, and to receive improvement - oriented feedback.

Research findings

There are three main ways in which teachers help their students to learn. First, they present information, explain concepts and model skills. Second, they ask questions and lead their students in discussion and other forms of discourse surrounding the content. Third, they engage students in activities or assignments that provide them with opportunities to practise or apply what they are learning. Research indicates that skills practised to a peak of smoothness and automaticity tend to be retained indefinitely, whereas skills that are mastered only partially tend to deteriorate. Most skills included in school curricula are learned best when practice is distributed across time and embedded within a variety of tasks. Thus, it is important to follow up thorough initial teaching with occasional review activities and with opportunities for students to use what they are learning in a variety of application contexts.

In the classroom

Practice is one of the most important yet least appreciated aspects of learning in classrooms. Little or no practice may be needed for simple behaviours such as pronouncing words, but practice becomes more important as learning becomes complex. Successful practice involves polishing skills that are already established at rudimentary levels in order to make them smoother, more efficient and more automatic, and not trying to establish such skills through trial and error.

Fill-in-the-blank worksheets, pages of mathematical computation problems and related tasks that engage students in memorizing facts or practising subskills in isolation from the rest of the curriculum should be minimized. Instead, most practice should be embedded within application contexts that feature conceptual understanding of knowledge and self-regulated application of skills. Thus, most practice of reading skills is embedded within lessons involving reading and interpreting extended text, most practice of writing skills is embedded within activities calling for authentic writing, and most practice of mathematics skills is embedded within problem-solving applications.

Opportunity to learn in school can be extended through homework assignments that are realistic in length and difficulty given the students’ abilities to work independently. To ensure that students know what to do, the teacher can get them started on assignments in class, and then have them finish the work at home. An accountability system should be in place to ensure that students complete their homework assignments, and the work should be reviewed in class the next day.

To be useful, practice must involve opportunities not only to apply skills but also to receive timely feedback. Feedback should be informative rather than evaluative, helping students to assess their progress with respect to major goals and to understand and correct errors or misconceptions. At times when teachers are unable to circulate to monitor progress and provide feedback, they should arrange for students working on assignments to get feedback by consulting posted study guides or answer sheets or by asking peers designated to act as tutors or resource persons.

References: Brophy & Alleman (1991); Cooper (1994); Dempster (1991); Knapp (1995).