I'm new to electronics. I'm trying to build something that will involve controlling the direction of rotation of a DC motor. A lot of online resources seem to recommend using an Arduino motor shield. But why shouldn't I just use some combination of an H-circuit (to control the direction of rotation) and a MOSFET (to switch power to the motor on and off)?
The major benefit to using a shield vs building the same circuit yourself is convenience. Assuming that your circuit is identical to the circuit on the shield then they should both work in an identical manner (barring any minor variations due to the quality of solder joints or circuit paths). The nice thing about the shield is it is almost plug and play. It has the same footprint as the Arduino and you don't have to design and assemble the circuit on a perf board. Generally, you will end up with fewer wire leads running around making for a cleaner assembly and easier prototyping.
A Arduino motor shield is just a H-bridge (plus some other bits), but it's a H-bridge that works.
Drawing a H-bridge and a MOSFET is easy. Building one that works is much harder. Online resources recommend the shield because trying to walk someone through the development of a functional equivalent is complex.