So far in this series about methods for improving learning and memory, I have covered two facts from consensus research:
Even if the right type of practice is provided, there must be enough of it. Whether preparing for a piano recital or a soccer match, a player would need to not only choose the right type of practice but also spend enough time with it. Could it be the difference in practice opportunities that makes one-on-one intervention so much more effective than group instruction? (Bloom, 1984)
What is enough practice and how can that be measured? We can use time to measure the amount of practice (for example 30 minutes of piano practice or soccer drills). But what if the player sits on the piano bench daydreaming and only plays a few notes? What if the soccer player hangs back during drills and rarely touches the ball? What if in a 30-minute reading intervention group a student daydreams, hangs back and gets only a few practice opportunities?
A practice opportunity is really a chain of three elements:
Reading intervention is typically set up based on seat-time, not practice opportunities. While we know from research that the number of practice opportunities matters a lot for learning and memory, we don’t have good data regarding how many practice opportunities individual students typically get during reading intervention.
So here’s a challenge: Count your students’ practice opportunities. How many independent response challenges does he or she get per day (or per week) as part of their reading intervention? We’d love to hear what you find, please comment below!
Bloom, B.S. (1984). The two sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational Researcher, 13 (6), 4–16.
Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.