Step 4.

give practice & feedback

How will the student practice the mental move? What feedback will be provided?

Principles of practice:

  • Create practice for the component skills.
  • Provide repeated practice, especially for difficult mental moves.
  • Bring the component skills back together.
  • Match the practice methods to the mental actions through Bloom's typology.
  • Create awareness in students of their own thought processes and the ways of thinking in your field.
  • Design effective feedback after practice.

Additional things to bear in mind when creating occasions for practice:

  • There are many, many ways to create an assessment. This practice can come in a wide variety of forms — brief in-class assignments or Classroom Assessment Techniques, on-line exercises, collaborative tasks, etc. Just-in-Time Teaching, Active Learning Techniques, and Team-Based Learning have proven to be particular useful approaches to consider for this step.
  • Initially it is important to focus on a particular mental operation that is problematic for many students. Complex tasks, which require the simultaneous application of multiple skills, can confuse students and do not provide them specific feedback on their mastery of particular operations. Once individual skills are clearly mastered, then an instructor can give more complex assignments that allow students to practice the integration of multiple operations.
  • Give students multiple opportunities for practice, in a variety of forms, especially for particularly challenging mental operations.
  • Have students practice the mental actions in order. Practice exercises should be arranged in logical order and integrated with modeling, so that the two steps reinforce one another.
  • Make the practice relevant to the topics in your course when possible. Practice can often be integrated with crucial content from the course, so that the work on skills also increases student understanding of the particular material that is used as examples in the exercise.
  • Provide feedback on how they are doing. Students should generally receive some form of information about the extent to which they are succeeding at the essential task that they are practicing. This can come in the form of specific comments on their individual attempts to do the tasks that they have been assigned, or the instructor may discuss typical examples of successful or unsuccessful student work using techniques of Just-in-Time teaching.
  • Explain why what we’re doing is important. Students need to understand the reason for the practice. They should understand that it offers them a chance to find out where they have gained mastery of essential steps and where they still need work with minimal negative impact on their grade.

Examples of Practice Exercises from Decoding Courses

[Provide examples - like Will Emigh]

Handling Emotional Bottlenecks

For some bottlenecks, practicing and receiving feedback on the mental actions is enough to turn that stop sign into a minor speed bump. In other teaching and learning situations, especially those involving emotional bottlenecks, we may need to further lessen resistance and provide additional motivation.