Deliberate Practice

  • research started by Anders Ericsson (Peak)
  • a way to practice with a specific goal in mind, and with clear feedback, examples:
    • Play this piece all the way through, at this speed, with no mistakes, three times in a row
    • Program an email signup form without checking Stack Overflow
  • feedback is necessary, there's a difference with just lifting weights vs recording my lifts and then critiquing my form
    • in general: what I think happened might be different to what others think
  • I should focus on things that don't go well, and practice them; this is related to weight training and specific exercises to address "weak points":

    the importance of grit - of students' focusing on material with which they struggle

  • how big of an importance is talent here?
    • if small, then almost everything can be trained
    • if big, then deliberate practice is only relevant to those who are already talented
  • is it possible that it is also a function of what is being studied? (learning violin vs piano for example)
  • related a bit - unused skills "fade out" (being "out of practice")
    • this means that skills need to be performed regularly
    • meta: important "mental model", how the observation of skill fading out over time leads to conclusions of the need of performing it

We get interested in what we get good at. In general, it is difficult to sustain interest in an activity unless one achieves some degree of competence. Athletics is the activity par excellence where the young need no prodding to gain pleasure from an increase in skill, save where prematurely adult standards are imposed on little leagues formed too soon to ape the big ones. A custom introduced some years ago at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland has become legendary. In addition to conventionally competitive track and field events within the school, there was established a novel competition in which boys pitted themselves against their own best prior record in the events.

Toward a Theory of Instruction - Jerome Bruner

In deliberate practice, learners and teachers periodically stop and assess their experiences and circumstances in order to make a plan to improve. The first two components - stopping and assessing - constitute reflective practice. Reflective practice, in turn, falls into three equally important domains. The first domain is cognitive awareness: awareness of what you know and don't know. The second domain is procedural: what kind of technical skills do you have or do you need and what can you or can't you do. The final domain is affective: how do interactions with patients or colleagues, or your work life in general, influence emotions, and what impact does that have on patient care and your own quality of life as a physician.

  • the question has some clues in research on Deliberate Practice - doing things is not always easy, but still gives joy

There is a well-known phenomenon known to psychologists by the forbidding name of the Zeigarnik Effect. In brief, tasks that are interrupted are much more likely to be remembered (...) The effect holds only if the tasks that the subject has been set are ones that have a structure-a beginning, a plan, and a terminus. If the tasks are "silly" in the sense of being meaningless, arbitrary, and without visible means for checking progress, the drive to completion is not stimulated by interruption. It seems likely that the desire to achieve competence follows the same rule. Unless there is some meaningful unity in what we are doing and some way of telling how we are doing, we are not very likely to strive to excel ourselves.

Toward a Theory of Instruction - Jerome Bruner

  • Bruner argues that Zeigarnik Effect doesn't work just for any task - excellence comes from Deliberate Practice, and this form of work needs a specific goal, and clear feedback into how we are doing