A View From History and Research: Deliberate Practice by Charles Debelak

Debliberate Practice blog photo

Birchwood School of Hawken Parent and Students


Let’s return to that dear parent who asked, “How can I help my children engage in their learning? How do I teach them to care about school, about learning, and about studying?” In a previous blog, I answered by explaining the role of parental modeling. The more you lead an engaged life, the more you raise the standards of engagement in your own life, you will not only model the process for your children, but you will also gain insights into the process that can become lessons which you teach your children.

You can also prepare a pathway for your children to discover success – and success upon success – the kind of success that makes you proud of yourself and makes you want to get better and better. In “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” Anders Ericsson makes an inspiring argument for growth based upon the latest discoveries in neuroscience and psychology. His findings are simple, perhaps even intuitive, but powerful. He notes, “The brain is adaptable, and training can create skills ... that did not exist before ... Learning becomes a way of creating abilities ... potential is an expandable vessel.”

He adds, “... no matter what the field, the most effective approaches to improving performance all follow a single set of general principles ... ‘deliberate practice.’ Today deliberate practice remains the gold standard for anyone in any field who wishes to take advantage of the gift of adaptability. The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.”

I would add, with deliberate practice comes improvement. With improvement comes success, and with success comes pride, selfworth, and the interest and motivation to engage. Anders also points out a practical but simple strategy for deliberate practice. He writes that those who improved their performance, regardless the field, were constantly challenged, but not too much. Deliberate practice demanded a physical and intellectual stretch. It demanded a level of focused hard work. But just enough to insure a next level of success. That success feeds motivation. “... the most effective and most powerful types of practice in any field work by harnessing the adaptability of the human body and brain to create, step by step, the ability to do things that were previously not possible.”


The Need for Engagement
William James on Habit and Character
Harnessing the Incredible Learning Potential of the Adolescent Brain
Pinnacle of Human Evolution: The Goal-Directed Brain
Modeling Engagement and Cognitive Functioning by Charles Debelak

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