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Skill acquisition is one of the most challenging elements of teaching. One reason why it is so challenging is because there are so many different ways in which students can learn skills. One way in which students can learn skills is through memorization. When a skill becomes encoded as part of memory, students can demonstrate acquisition traits and behaviors:
We begin by distinguishing between three stages of memory processing -- encoding, the process by which a new trace is laid down in memory; storage, or what happens to the encoded memory trace over the retention interval; and retrieval, or gaining access to stored knowledge so that you can use it to solve problems or whatever. The fate of memory over each of these three stages is governed by a remarkably small number of principles.
Another way that skills can be acquired is through experiential learning. In this idea, students learn through a practical means of immersion within the specific activity. Learning is not merely encoded, but something that is experienced and understood through operational definitions and practical experience. Part of this comes out of "trial and error" experience where learning is seen as a practical application of being in the world. One other means of learning similar to this is observational learning in which learners understand from observing others. It is practical in the same notion as experiential learning, but there is a distance from the fully immersive practice. In observational learning, students observe and through their observational means, greater learning is evident. The spacing effect is another way in which skills are acquired. This method of instruction focuses on introduction and revisiting specific skills over a prolonged period of time. Research shows that when students are able to revisit skills, their potential for mastery of these skills increase. Finally, students are able to learn skills when an established routine is created, designed for skill retention. A structure for students that enables them to be able to focus on skill comprehension and understanding is on that frames the learning process for them. When students are able to learn skills in a structure that facilitates learning in a stable environment that is based on routine, then skill retention will become evident.
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