Mass versus distribution practices

Mass versus distribution practices

CAHPERD Journal, Volume 28, Number 1, Fall 2003


Massed versus Distributed Practice: Which is Better?
Steven R. Murray, D.A., and Brian E. Udermann, Ph.D., ATC
Department of Human Performance and Wellness, Mesa State College, Grand Junction, CO and the Department of
Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin—La Crosse, La Crosse, WI


amount of time in a trial” when the practice is
distributed. Thus, it seems that the defining detail of
distributed practice is that rest must be accompanied
with the practice; that is, rest is “distributed” during
the trials.
However, as stated earlier, some believe that
rest can be used during massed practice. By the strict
definitions of massed and distributed practice as
provided by Burdick (1977), if rest were involved in
the practice session, it would then be considered
distributed practice. Schmidt clarifies this point when
he writes, “There is no fixed dividing line between
massed and distributed practice, but massed practice
generally has reduced rest between practice trials,
whereas distributed practice has more rest.”
The advantages and limitations of massed
and distributed practice are based on fatigue, time
constraints, and number of participants. Physical
fatigue, as well as mental fatigue, plays an important
role in what type of practice is used (Schmidt, 1991).
First, if numerous practice trials are to be performed,
and if they are very tiring, a reduction in rest time or
no allotment for rest at all will lead to a build-up of
fatigue. The fatigue could degrade the performance
of the task and possibly interfere with the learning
processes involved in performing the trial. In
addition, the fatigue build-up could actually lead to
the development of “bad habits” and teach and
support improper movements. Thus, fatigue must be
taken into consideration when a practice schedule is
being made.
Furthermore, time will play an important
role in the decision of what...

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