This post presents a brief elaboration on the fourth of seven principles of learning:
Principle #4 – Practice. Principles of change are activated and aligned with learning targets through models of practice, exercise, or experience.
It is in the componential features of practice activities that principles of change are realized and are aligned with learning targets (Figure 6). Just as learning targets may be determined intentionally or incidentally, so too are various types of practice activities determined, with or without intention. As used here, practice models refer to activities that are specifically designed or selected to move a person toward a predetermined target of learning. Similarly, exercise is used to refer to the type of repeated activity that is intended to build up strength or precision—which are two examples of vertical capacity increase that enable a more advanced level of performance.
Experience refers to unplanned, incidental activities that are not coordinated with specific learning targets and that lack intentional accounting for implementation of the principles of change which govern learning. Learning occurs in such activities as the result of any adjustment made by a person to adapt to aspects of the experience which are beyond their current limits of capacity; or to modify their patterns of acting, believing, or feeling, thereby establishing new habits. Because it is not directed toward a specific target of learning, incidental learning through unplanned experience is not as efficient as learning through designed or selected models of practice and exercise in the attainment of specific targets. In fact, many learning targets would never be attained without such direction. Note, however, that designed practice models should not be misinterpreted to mean artificial, or decontextualized models of practice activity. On the contrary, the most effective models of practice are those in which practice activities are exactly the same as, or provide genuine approximation of, the activities of performance which they are intended to make possible or improve. It is certainly possible to design a practice model which simultaneously maximizes learning and approximation of expected activities of performance, though doing so may require some effort.