Effect of blocked and random practice schedule variations on acquisition and retention of a pattern drawing task
Ens, Larisa Ruth
Master of Science
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The contextual interference (CI) effect refers to the phenomenon that practice organised according to a random schedule appears to negatively affect acquisition, while retention performance is facilitated. Previous research has investigated different combinations of blocked and random practice in order to maximise retention performance. Shea, Morgan, and Ho (1981) indicated that the total amount of random trials in acquisition, not where random trials are interpolated into acquisition was the key to increased retention when performing movement patterns. In contrast, Goode and Wei (1987) suggested that blocked trials followed by random trials were important to the facilitation of learning an open motor skill. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of blocked and random practice schedule variations on acquisition and retention of a computer-based pattern drawing task. In the first experiment, 48 right-handed participants practiced drawing three different movement patterns using a four-button mouse and a digitising tablet. The participants were given 72 acquisition trials in one of the four groups: blocked, random, random-blocked, and blocked-random. Following the acquisition phase, retention tests of 10 minutes and 24 hours were given to all subjects in a random schedule. The results revealed that although the blocked followed by random practice schedule did not have a significantly superior retention performance, the participants performed equally in retention to those in the random-blocked, and random only groups. The amount of random trials in acquisition did not determine retention performance for a pattern drawing task as the blocked-random and random-blocked groups had half as many random trials as the random only group, but had equal retention performance.