Demands of deliberate practice

Homework seems to be a popular topic among educators posting online. I get it – students would rather not do homework and educators would rather not spend the time to grade and provide feedback. Fact is, learning requires an investment of time expended on a variety of cognitive tasks and this time simply might not be available during school hours. Conclusion – homework plays a useful role in learning.

I would refer educators interested in the logic and research on homework consider the Schwartz, et al chapter on deliberative practice. This is a different kind of book providing what some instructional designers would describe as a job aid. The ABC thing is an organizational feature I find kind of artificial, but the idea is to identify specific learning challenges and what is known about specific tactics that can be applied.

The authors consider homework within the context of deliberative practice. This concept implies a specific type of learning activity and homework may or may not be understood to serve this need.

Deliberate practice involves focusing on what is beyond one’s current skill set rather than just executing what one is already able to do.

I recognize that homework may also be about repetition to develop automaticity. When deliberative practice is the goal, Schwartz and colleagues contend:

Deliberate practice, if done well, requires a degree of concentration that people cannot sustain

Schwartz, Daniel L.; Tsang, Jessica M.; Blair, Kristen P.. The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them (Kindle Location 842). W. W. Norton & Company.

Without getting into the work done in support of this position (you can read the original using the reference I provide above), the authors suggest that short, but intense engagement is what educators should be assigning to meet the requirements for effective deliberative practice.

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