DP_Pix.pngDrill & Practice
Drills can provide an important "practice phase" to instruction and can be useful for learning information that requires fluency such as math skills, vocabulary, spelling and foreign languages.

By Sandy Bordy

*A computer-assisted instruction technique in which a series of structured problems or exercises with immediate feedback to student responses is provided.

*Drill and practice "refers to the structured, repetitive review of previously learned concepts to a predetermined level of mastery."
*It "promotes the acquisition of knowledge or skill through repetitive practice."

Purpose of Drill & Practice:
Drill and practice software is one of the earliest types of educational software. Many educators have criticized the use of drill and practice software claiming they are boring and do not utilize the full capabilities of the computer for higher level learning objectives. However, drill and practice does have its place in the overall learning environment. Drill and practice software is not intended to teach new concepts, but instead reinforce concepts already taught through review and practice. It provides immediate, relevant feedback and prevents students from learning something incorrectly. Drill and practice allows students to work at their own pace while focusing on skills they need to work on rather than forcing them to work on concepts they already know. Drill and practice can also help identify mastery of a skill for both the student and the teacher.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Drill and Practice:

  • Motivating
  • Provides immediate feedback
  • Individualized practice
  • Student can work at own pace
  • Increases acquisition and fluency of basic skills
  • Many are poorly designed
  • Usually lack high tech graphics and sound effects
  • Limited uses
  • Can lead to boredom through repetition
  • Does not promote higher level thinking

Research Findings:

  • Cognitive studies have shown that if basic skills become automatic, students will be able to concentrate on more difficult activities (Luik 2000).
  • Immediate,simple feedback has the biggest influence in promoting learning (Luik 2000).
  • In a study conducted by Williams (2000), students who used drill & practice software to learn their multiplication facts made significant increases in the number of facts learned as compared to students who used traditional pencil and paper.
  • In a study (Singleton & Simmons 2001), using Wordshark, a drill & practice computer program designed to improve children's spelling and word recognition skills, participants made significant improvement in their reading and spelling as reported by teachers. It was also reported that the participants enjoyed using the program and were more motivated when using the program than when doing other classroom work.

Important factors for teachers to consider when selecting drill & practice software to use in the classroom:

(Oh 2001)
  • Does the software program focus on the skills you want your class to master?
  • Does the program contain a range of levels to accommodate all of your students?
  • Can children easily change skill levels and select an activity so they can work independently?
  • Does the program keep track of a student's progress from one session to the next?
  • Is the program engaging?

(Sullivan 2004)
  • Is developmentally appropriate for the student
  • Reinforces skills already taught
  • Is based on individual student needs
  • Meets curriculum outcomes
  • Provides a positive learning experience for the student
  • Provides appropriate stimuli, response required, and reinforcement for the student

Features of good drill & practice software:
The best types of drill and practice software usually include an engaging mix of text, graphics,sound, and animation. These all help to keep the learner's attention. Many use a game format that features competition between students or the computer. According to Alessi &Trollip (2001), competition against other student's is the most effective in increasing motivation. Quality drill and practice programs give students some control over the presentation of the material, allowing them to select the range of topics and the speed at which they are presented. Feedback is a crucial component of drill and practice software. If a question is answered correctly, a congratulatory message is appropriate. When answered incorrectly, it is important that the program indicate that the response is incorrect, why it is incorrect, and how to get the correct answer. Good drill and practice software is able to isolate individual concepts and make sure the student has mastered them. It is after a concept is mastered that it proceeds to higher levels of learning.

(Foshay 2000)

Examples of math Drill & Practice Software:
D&Ppic.png D&Ppic2.png

The following links provide information about available Drill & Practice software


The following is a link to a video on integrating Drill & Practice




Sandy Bordy
Last updated April 24, 2010