Saturday, April 21, 2012

Deliberate Practice (2)

It comes as little surprise that, the more time one spends noodling over something, the deeper the learning effect. Learning research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity, and expert-level performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice , not innate talent.

K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist and scientific researcher out of Florida State University in the paper titled The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance:

"People believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults. This view has discouraged scientists from systematically examining expert performers and accounting for their performance in terms of the laws and principles of general psychology"

One of Ericsson's core findings is that how expert one becomes at a skill has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback. Another important feature of deliberate practice lies in continually practicing a skill at more challenging levels with the intention of mastering it.[4] Deliberate practice is also discussed in the books, "Talent is Overrated," by Geoff Colvin[5], and "The Talent Code," by Daniel Coyle,[6]among others.

What is the technique?

In music, it may be the "chunking" of performance. In other areas of learning, the intentionality of the focused attention is important. In one study, a researcher Wieman trained a postdoc, Louis Deslauriers, and a graduate student, Ellen Schelew, asked students to think like scientists and puzzle out problems during class. For 1 week, Deslauriers and Schelew took over one section of an introductory physics course for engineering majors, which met three times for 1 hour. A tenured physics professor continued to teach another large section using the standard lecture format.

The results were dramatic: After the intervention, the students in the deliberate practice section did more than twice as well on a 12-question multiple-choice test of the material as did those in the control section. They were also more engaged—attendance rose by 20% in the experimental section, according to one measure of interest—and a post-study survey found that nearly all said they would have liked the entire 15-week course to have been taught in the more interactive manner.

(I'd like to see more about the impact of assignment, task-framing or  purpose.)

Medical Education (Wikipedia article)
Duvivier et. al. reconstructed the concept of deliberate practice into practical principles to describe the process as it relates to clinical skill acquisition. They defined deliberate practice as:
  1. repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.
  2. rigorous skills assessment
  3. specific information feedback
  4. better skills performance[8]
They further described the personal skills learners need to exhibit at various stages of skill development in order to be successful in developing their clinical skills. This includes:
  1. planning (organize work in a structured way).
  2. concentration/dedication (higher attention span)
  3. repetition/revision (strong tendency to practice)
  4. study style/self reflection (tendance to self-regulate learning)[9]
While the study only included medical students, the authors found that repetitious practice may only help the novice learner (year 1) because as expertise is developed, the learner must focus and plan their learning around specific deficiencies. Curriculum must be designed to develop students' ability to plan their learning as they progress in their careers.
Finally, the findings in the study also have implications for developing self-regulated behaviors in students. Initially, a medical student may need focused feedback from instructors, however as they progress they must develop the ability to self-assess.


A good post, citing examples from musical performance:

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