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Variability of Practice

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Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning


Learning from varied experiences


Variability of practice refers to the finding that varied (i.e., continually changing) practice is more effective for schema construction than constant (i.e., always the same) practice. Variability of practice facilitates generalization of cognitive schemas and improves transfer of learning, that is, it is most beneficial to performance on novel rather than earlier encountered situations. The term “variability of practice” is mostly used in motor learning, but for complex cognitive tasks, learning from varied experiences also has positive effects on transfer of learning.

Theoretical Background

The term “variability of practice” is rooted in theories of motor learning and, especially, Schmidt’s schema theory (see Van Rossum 1990). In this theory, the execution of movements is not seen as a literal reproduction of earlier experiences, but as a fresh construction via a more general schema. By providing variations in a task, the learner...

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Correspondence to Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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van Merriënboer, J.J.G. (2012). Variability of Practice. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA.

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