ZonedIn

Most people realize that mastering a skill of any type requires practice. “Prodigies” may exhibit astounding capabilities, but the public sees them “after the fact.” The audience is not privy to the many years of sweat and toil these experts devoted to achieve their success. People are not born virtuoso pianists, skilled surgeons, brilliant scientists, or Olympic athletes. High achievers don’t necessarily have superior genes or innate abilities. They engage in deliberate practice,  a planned, effortful series of activities designed to improve skill in a particular domain and guided by well-informed feedback.Psychology researchers, notably Anders Ericsson, further extends this concept to expert performance in medicine and related domains. He proposes, “ . . . acquisition of expert performance requires engagement in deliberate practice and that continued deliberate practice is necessary for maintenance of many types of professional performance.”

The key component of achieving expertise is “mindfulness.” In her book, with that title, Ellen Langer explains that going through activities without thinking results in mindless routines. She believes that when people engage in mindful learning, they avoid forming mind-sets that unnecessarily limit them.  For instance,repeating the same tennis swing multiple times without attending to improved changes in movement will not result in better playing. Deliberate practice typically involves building up layers and layers of skill and understanding over time. A haphazard approach to practice does not achieve this.  In fact, innate athletic ability seems to be a myth. Athletes are able to attain international-level performance only in a few highly related events that are consistent with their current and past training.  

To reinforce deliberate practice a teacher or coach needs to provide immediate and specific feedback. To make sure the student isn’t mindlessly going through the corrections, an instructor should quiz the student on the right way to do things, forcing the student to think about what he’s performing.  These concepts appear to be true across disciplines. 

Most people realize that mastering a skill of any type requires practice. “Prodigies” may exhibit astounding capabilities, but the public sees them “after the fact.” The audience is not privy to the many years of sweat and toil these experts devote to achieve their success. People are not born virtuoso pianists, skilled surgeons, brilliant scientists, or Olympic athletes. High achievers don’t necessarily have superior genes or innate abilities. They engage in deliberate practice,  a planned, effortful series of activities designed to improve skill in a particular domain and guided by well-informed feedback.Psychology researchers, notably Anders Ericsson, further extends this concept to expert performance in medicine and related domains. He proposes, “ . . . acquisition of expert performance requires engagement in deliberate practice and that continued deliberate practice is necessary for maintenance of many types of professional performance.”

The key component of achieving expertise is “mindfulness.” In her book, with that title, Ellen Langer explains that going through activities without thinking results in mindless routines. She believes that when people engage in mindful learning, they avoid forming mind-sets that unnecessarily limit them.  For instance,repeating the same tennis swing multiple times without attending to improvements in movement will not result in better playing. Deliberate practice typically involves building up layers and layers of skill and understanding over time. A haphazard approach to practice does not achieve this.  In fact, innate athletic ability seems to be a myth. Athletes are able to attain international-level performance only in a few highly related events that are consistent with their current and past training.  

To reinforce deliberate practice a teacher or coach needs to provide immediate and specific feedback. To make sure the student isn’t mindlessly going through the corrections, an instructor should quiz the student on the right way to do things, forcing the student to think about what he’s performing.  These concepts appear to be true across disciplines. Persistence and mindfulness are key elements of experts in any field..