Jonathan Swift in the eighteenth century talked of “speculative investigators or projectors”, to describe an active involvement with an idea.
Definition of practice
- the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it: the principles and practice of teaching
- the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something: product placement is common practice in American movies
- repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it: it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent
Definition of rehearsal
- The act of practicing in preparation for a public performance.
- A session of practice for a performance, as of a play.
- A detailed enumeration or repetition: a long rehearsal of his woes.
I’d link the idea of rehearsal with deliberate practice, a form of self-testing, with a personal assessment of performance, sometimes supported by a coach/observer.
As a teenager, I had a modicum of talent in sport, representing the school in several, the area at a few and county at cricket. I played for Paignton Cricket Club, was a regular attender at nets, with or without the coaches. In between sessions I would daydream about cricket, either batting, where all strokes were imagined, or bowling sometimes with accompanying actions, seeking to perfect the leg break or off cutter. All this was supplemented by wide reading around the subject.
At the same time, I was thoroughly immersed in things French, starting from lessons which allowed oral rehearsal of a wide vocabulary, supplemented with the necessary grammar. Like anything one finds pleasurable, there was a need for more, so I read and thought and rehearsed conversations in my head. Living in Paignton, selling ice creams as a summer job brought occasional French customers, to provide a small amount of practice with real people.
It took a long time to realise the dream of holidays in France. Armed with GCE French and limited confidence, I essayed conversation with friends of English friends and discovered that I could make myself understood. Between meetings, I’d rehearse possible lines of conversation; look up appropriate words, read the local papers and any free leaflets that came through the post box. The internal dialogue paid off. Fluency developed, as did confidence. Buying the house was the complete realisation of that dream.
As a teacher, I remember watching a gifted young pianist “playing the table”, rehearsing a piece through muscle memory, “hearing” the notes in his head.
Being part of an am-dram group required some hours spent reading and re-reading lines, then speaking them aloud, with a patient listener prompting when errors occurred.
Before interviews, I’d reflect on possible lines of questioning and rehearse potential answers, not to be word perfect, but to have a frame of reference which would allow for the unexpected form of a question. I got my headship because, so I was told, I could think on my feet and answer appropriately, not provide “book” answers. I even managed to argue with a Governor, which got a positive response.
There was a time when relaxation from management was provided by folk music, in the form of playing the bodhran (Irish drum) for a dance troupe and singing at Folk clubs. The former required practice, often playing along to CDs, while the latter needed the traditional singing in the shower or in the car, to be sure of words. The words can be in your head, but if they can’t come out, it somewhat spoils performance.
In school, we introduce activities such as Look and say, Cover, Write, Check as a means of learning/rehearsing spellings. The word has to be put into short term memory, retrieved without a prompt, then compared, with repetition if there is an error.
A more repetitive approach can be seen in Alpha to Omega, where there’s need to write a word many time over.
Like all things educational, the interpretation of a word can be crucial to determining whether an activity is mechanistic or challenges thinking. Practice spellings can be interpreted in many ways, as can learning tables. Rote repetition is only one way.
The retrieval and use and application of a skill, such as spellings or tables is valuable when required to solve everyday problems. In themselves they may have limited value. as a classteacher, I would model thinking through problems, then set some for the children to reflect on outside the lesson.
Do we want them on a treadmill or to be reflective learners?