As learners, we all strive to build expertise in our academic lives and in extracurricular activities like basketball, swimming, music, or dance. One of the most powerful “learning to learn” tools that is always at our disposal is deliberate practice. And, by the way, the Visible Learning research by John Hattie states that it has the potential to considerably accelerate learning with an average effect of .79. Any factor that has an effect size above 0.4 has an even greater positive effect on student learning ( 0.4 represents an average year’s growth per year of schooling). Deliberate practice, popularized by psychologist Anders Ericsson, is the key to improving your skills, no matter what grade level you’re in and what you are learning. As educators strengthen MTSS in their schools, infusing the principles of deliberate practice in all tiers of support can take your systems from good to great!

Key Principles of Deliberate Practice

Let’s explore the principles of deliberate practice (DP) and how students can harness its potential by infusing key principles of deliberate practice in any skill they want to build expertise in. Not only can students use DP in school, they can use this “learning to learn” strategy for life!

  1. Set Specific Goals: Deliberate practice starts with a clear and specific goal. Instead of aiming to “get better” at a subject or activity, define your goal precisely. For example, if you’re struggling with math, your goal might be to improve your problem-solving speed.
  2. Focus on Your Area of Need: Identify the areas where you need to make improvements. Deliberate practice involves targeted efforts to address your needs. If you’re strong in English but struggle with science, allocate more practice time to science-related skills. Or, better yet, focus on transferable skills that are needed across subject areas like improving the skill of “analysis”.
  3. Break It Down: Divide your goal into smaller, manageable tasks. For instance, if you’re aiming to become a better basketball player, break it down into specific skills like dribbling, shooting, and defense. Practice each skill separately before integrating them into your overall game.
  4. Seek Feedback: Feedback is invaluable for improvement. Whether it’s from teachers, coaches, peers, or self-assessment, feedback helps you identify areas for improvement. Listen to constructive criticism and use it to refine your practice.
  5. Stay Consistent: Deliberate practice is not a one-time effort but a consistent, ongoing process. Create a regular practice schedule and stick to it. Consistency is the key to long-term improvement.
  6. Challenge Yourself: Deliberate practice should push you beyond your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to tackle tasks that are difficult or uncomfortable. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
  7. Stay Focused: During practice sessions, eliminate distractions and stay fully engaged. Quality practice is more important than quantity. Concentrate on the task at hand and give it your undivided attention.
  8. Track Your Progress: Keep a record of your practice sessions and your performance. This will help you monitor your improvement over time and make necessary adjustments to your practice routine.
  9. Embrace Patience: Improvement takes time, and you may encounter setbacks along the way. Be patient with yourself and stay committed to your goals.
  10. Reflect and Adjust: Regularly assess your progress and adjust your practice strategies as needed. If you’re not seeing the results you want, it might be time to try a different approach.

Purposeful Practice Makes More Impact

Remember, deliberate practice isn’t just about spending more time studying or practicing—it’s about practicing in a purposeful and focused manner. By applying DP principles, learners can unlock their full potential and achieve their academic and extracurricular goals. So, set your goals, stay committed, and embrace deliberate practice as your path to success!