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Drill & Practice vs Strategic Learning

After reading the review of work in this area, would you encourage a ‘drill & practice’ approach to learning math, or more of a conceptual strategic-based approach? Why or why not?

Both approaches have merits and uses in different situations. Memorization it appears is best used to support the building blocks of math understanding and practices that will be relied upon later to attack more complex tasks. However, as we know from previous weeks with regards to information processing, these concepts need to be attached and grounded in a way that’s relatable to get them to stick, since “knowledge is not coded in one location but rather across many memory networks” (Schunk, 2012).  While it is clear that the conceptual, strategy-based approach would perhaps be more effective for complex tasks, the statement above would seem to imply that both approaches work hand in hand to actually make meaning and connections between the two.

 

I have begun to suspect, that as with any theoretical approach, an overemphasis on any one facet can lead to impoverishment of teaching. In relating this to the misuse of neuroscience for example, Schunk states that “the practice of teaching…to different sides of the brain (right brain, left brain) is not supported by empirical research” (2012). With this in mind, it is somewhat alarming to me that teaching to left brain vs right brain has been a strategy widely implemented for many years. It serves to demonstrate the risk that in our haste to find an easy answer, we may act on research that is incomplete or premature. Are we harming teaching and learning by trying to find an ‘easy’ answer? The question this week “would you encourage a ‘drill & practice’ approach to learning math, or more of a conceptual strategic-based approach? Why or why not?” is tricky because it seems to ask us to consider doing just that. The answer is never that clear cut.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. Sixth Edition (Ch. 3 – Behaviorism). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Image source: “Skill and Drill” by Rhoni McFarlane is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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