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Going Deeper: The Role of Effective Practice in Encouraging Profound Learning

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As cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has said, “It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice” (2009, p. 81). But how does practice fit into the K12 classroom with the dawn of new college and career standards? What are the components of effective practice? And how can we make sure we get it right and that kids are practicing effectively?

With new standards placing additional academic demands on students and teachers alike, practice is more important than ever. It is critical, however, to ensure that students are engaged in effective practice. Getting effective practice right means ensuring students begin with a solid base of foundational skills (learn more in the Renaissance blog) and then expecting them “to demonstrate deeper conceptual understanding by applying content knowledge and skills to new situations and sustained tasks” (Hess, Carlock, Jones, & Walkup, 2009, p. 1).

This newly published white paper seeks to summarize the growing body of cognitive and educational research on the role of practice in the learning process—particularly related to reading and mathematics—alongside findings from recent analyses of Renaissance Learning’s huge databases of student practice and achievement data.

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Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students like school? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Hess, K. K., Carlock, D., Jones, B., & Walkup, J. R. (2009, June). What exactly do “fewer, clearer, and higher standards” really look like in the classroom? Using a cognitive rigor matrix to analyze curriculum, plan lessons, and implement assessments. Presented at CCSSO, Detroit, MI. Retrieved from http://www.nciea.org/publications/cognitiverigorpaper_KH12.pdf