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Is Homework "Deliberate Practice"?

Browse recordings: livestream.com/educon3

Session Two: Saturday 1:00pm–2:30pm
Room 208
Kathleen Cushman
Affiliation: Co-founder, WKCD (What Kids Can Do, Inc.); author, "Fires in the Mind" and other books with students
Conversational Focus/Audience:
All School Levels
Conversation Description:

Cognitive researchers have specific criteria for what makes something deliberate practice—the kind of practice that steadily makes people better at what they do. It would make sense if homework matched those criteria, but my research for Fires in the Mind shows that it usually doesn't.

For example, deliberate practice always has an express purpose, but students say they usually don't know what its point is. Deliberate practice is geared to the individual, but typically everyone gets the same homework tasks, no matter what they need to work on. Deliberate practice involves attention and focus, but kids say they usually do their homework without thinking. Deliberate practice requires repetition or rehearsal, but often kids tell me that they are repeating something just to get it over with, not to perfect and remember it. Timing is important in deliberate practice, yet homework often takes more time than kids have for it. Finally, although deliberate practice should lead to new skills, students say they don't use it for anything after it's done.

What would it take to turn homework into the kind of practice that would help students strengthen their skills and knowledge in academic subjects? Perhaps the most powerful steps in that direction would occur, I propose, when students think of homework as getting good at something. In this conversation, we will invite you to share how you are already designing homework that accomplishes this and we'll brainstorm some new ways to lift homework to a new level of deliberate practice.

Conversational Practice:
I will post our ideas for comment on the blog http://firesinthemind.org and anywhere else that participants suggest. Skypecast is also a possibility!


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