Deliberate Practice

  • research started by Anders Ericsson
  • 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

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.

  • it's often mentioned in "The Mundanity of Excellence - An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers" - best swimmers don't train more hours than mediocre ones, but they do swim qualitatively differently (and are probably much more Deliberate in their Practice)
  • can this act be deliberately practiced?
    • I could record myself building experiments, open question: would that provide enough signal over noise, so feedback is possible?
    • I could create more constraints for better understanding: not using external libraries, using a different language than the one I'm used to, etc.
  • the question has some clues in research on Deliberate Practice - doing things is not always easy, but still gives joy
Szymon Kaliski © 2021