What do you feel is the motive behind regularly going to school, attending classes, learning different subjects, doing projects and assignments, and so on?
Is it just to pass exams and have a high school diploma or a degree?
If you answered no, then you probably believe that the motive behind education is to understand what is being taught, learn it and then apply it in real life. That is also the goal of the drill and practice method of teaching, which emphasizes the need to actually understand the application of a concept and retain it in order to consider the lesson a success.
In this blog, we’ll have a closer look at the drill and practice method of teaching and learning and how it can prove to be a useful educational intervention for individuals with learning differences like dyslexia.
Decoding drill and practice method
Built on principles of the behaviorist school of thought, the drill and practice learning method represents a technique of teaching and learning that helps in attaining mastery over a certain skill or activity.
It is based on the premise that in order to apply a concept in real life, an individual needs to completely understand and retain it. The way to achieve that, according to this method, is by regularly practicing the concept until the required goals are achieved.
The drill and practice method usually follows a three-step progression where the students are first introduced to the concept. In this step, the teacher takes the predominant role in learning, explaining every single thing in detail and ensuring that every student understands it.
In the second step, the responsibility of learning falls onto the students who now practice the concept or skill they were taught in class during the first step.
The third step involves assessments meant to test how much the student has been able to understand, retain and apply. If they are able to solve most of the questions, they are moved to the next level of difficulty, and if not, they continue practicing tasks and questions until they can.
Effectiveness of drill and practice method for learning differences
Individuals with dyslexia, a developmental learning difference characterized by language-related issues, can stand to benefit from having the drill and practice method as a part of their curriculum. The reasons for this include the following:
1. The difficulty is increased progressively
In the drill and practice method, students are not expected to solve advanced questions based on preliminary information delivered during the lectures. The difficulty of the questions is increased slowly and based on their progress. This can be helpful for students with dyslexia because, for example, while learning to spell, they might require some extra time and practice with the basic spellings like cat and bat before they can spell words like kitten and cricket.
2. Performance is monitored, and continuous feedback is provided
Drill and practice-based methods of instruction emphasize the need to constantly monitor and assess the individual’s performance. This helps in giving immediate and updated feedback that keeps the students motivated. These assessments are used to further adjust the difficulty level of the questions they are practicing. For example, if a student with dyslexia who struggles with spelling seems to have mastered spelling 3 letter words following the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern like cat and bat, their good performance should be acknowledged, and they should start working on spelling 4 letter words next.
3. Increases proficiency as well as confidence
The end goal of the drill and practice method is to encourage the student to keep practicing until they master a particular task or skill. Individuals with dyslexia might have trouble with getting certain concepts in one go, unlike their peers who do not have any such challenges or struggles. This mode of teaching allows them to practice as long as they need to, to become proficient in that concept. Having a safe space to make mistakes and slowly seeing their efforts pay off through an increase in their level of performance also aids in building and enhancing the self-esteem and confidence of students.
Effective or excessive: What does the research say?
A 2016 study published the results of a 2-year long special instruction program for dyslexia. The program included phonetic instruction and training, drill and practice training, and employed multisensory methods to teach reading skills in a holistic manner that helps the students in overcoming the concerns presented by dyslexia. The findings showed that the group of students who participated in the program showed significantly better comprehension and reading recognition skills .
Another study, conducted in 2017, sought to gauge the benefits of engaging in learning through video games that follow the drill and practice method of instruction. It found that along with enhanced educational benefits, students with dyslexia also derived several social benefits from this gameplay. They would spontaneously engage in conversations and discussions regarding the game, its progress, its components, its contents, etc., with their peers and their teachers .
Another study reported the results of a drill and practice-based learning program for teaching reading to deaf students with dyslexia. This 2007 study included 2 students who, over a 6 month period, were provided with special training that included constantly repeating and practicing what they had learned with a positive teacher-learner relationship. The results showed an improvement in their reading abilities as well as their overall attitude toward learning and literacy. An increase in the students’ self-confidence, as well as social interactions, was also observed.
The drill and practice method is exactly as it sounds. It presents a model of teaching where students keep practicing the same concept over and over until they become proficient in it. Using this method in the classroom usually follows a three-step progression wherein the students are first introduced to the topic by the teacher. Next, they practice the topic on their own and are then tested on it. If they perform well on the test, the level of difficulty of the questions they are practicing is increased, and if not, they are given more questions with the same level of difficulty to practice on their own.
This technique has several benefits for individuals with dyslexia who might need extra time and practice to master a concept. With its unique features like progressive increase in difficulty and continuous assessments and feedback, which can be crucial in education. Furthermore, the drill and practice method not only helps in increasing the proficiency of students with dyslexia but also has positive repercussions for their self-esteem and confidence.
- Oakland, T., Black, J. L., Stanford, G., Nussbaum, N. L., & Balise, R. R. (2016). An Evaluation of the Dyslexia Training Program. Journal of Learning Disabilities. https://doi.org/10.1177/002221949803100204
- Vasalou, A., Khaled, R., Holmes, W., & Gooch, D. (2017). Digital games-based learning for children with dyslexia: A social constructivist perspective on engagement and learning during group game-play. Computers & Education, 114, 175-192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.06.009
- Enns, C., & Lafond, L. D. (2007). Reading against all odds: A pilot study of two deaf students with dyslexia. American annals of the deaf, 152(1), 63-72.