Use of Repetition - Training and Development

There is a mistaken notion that sheer repetition assists learning. Sheer repetition may assist memorization—but that means it's useful only in achieving knowledge. Repetition doesn't help comprehension much, nor does it help the other more advanced cognitive and affective objectives. Repeating a psychomotor behavior can provide the"practice that makes perfect," but even as we say that we should discover something else about the principle of repetition: It's repetition by the learner that pays off—not repetition by the instructor!

Repetition by the learner helps the"imprinting" process, memorizing key words, or perfecting psychomotor skills through drill. For other types of skill, repetition is most valuable when it's "repetition with a difference." That explains the value of having learners themselves put ideas into their own words and of hearing other learners express the ideas in varying phrases. Each person's phrasing is original, and gives learners "ownership" of the idea. It lets them personally adapt a stimulus so they are comfortable with it; it allows them to hear the same concept different ways from different people.

When drill takes the form of problems or simple case studies, it also offers repetition with a difference. Principles are applied repeatedly, but in different contexts or with different ingredients. Such drill permits repetition at the "application level"and reduces mere repetition of theory to a practical, useful activity.

For example, merely repeating "two times two is four" again and again is a sterile exercise. Asking how many children there are in a house with two families, each of which has two children, improves the experience accompanying the drill—and the ability to retain and apply the formula. There is real value in educational use of the literary device of "incremental repetition," or "repetition with a difference."


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