Many of us are familiar with the idea that practice helps to improve performance. We have heard familiar mantras like, “Practice makes perfect”. We may have even read books about practice such as, Malcolm Gladwell’s, 2011 bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success. Outliers popularized the idea of the 10,000-hour rule and the merits of many hours of practice. According to Gladwell, 10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes to become an expert, but is it true that the only thing standing between us and expert status in any skill is practice time and dedication? Does practice really make perfect? As it turns out, that’s not quite the whole story.

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is based on the research of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. Ericsson explores a question that I have found to be particularly interesting and relevant to educators: How do you capture superior performance and reproduce it? It turns out that length of practice is not the only component to improving performance. When it comes to improving skill level, there is no magic number. If you think about it, most students spend 10,000 hours in school but unfortunately, many do not graduate as expert learners. 

How can we change this? Ericsson suggests that deliberate practice or practice oriented toward a specific goal is what improves performance. After setting and establishing a goal, practice needs to contain three elements in order to result in skill gains:

Self-Monitoring and Evaluation

While practicing a skill, the student needs to monitor their performance thinking about how they are doing with the task in front of them and whether the strategies they are using are working. They may ask themselves:

  • What went well?
  • What did not go so well?
  • What do I need to do differently next time?

Feedback from an Expert

When students are learning something new, they need a coach to help improve their level of skill. In the classroom, the teacher acts as that coach providing students with feedback on their performance. According to Hattie and Yates, feedback should help students to determine the answers to the following questions:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I doing and what progress have I made?
  • What should I do next?

Feedback, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation help students to practice in a way that continuously refines and improves their process and their resulting skill-level.

Gradual Skill Refinement

Once students understand what to refine, they can revise what they are doing for improved performance. Marzano conceptualizes this as a five-step process where a student:

  1. Thinks about their current and previous understanding
  2. Searches for mistakes and corrects them
  3. Determines if there are areas that are still confusing or steps that are missing
  4. Updates prior knowledge to use the correct process or procedure from now on
  5. Checks to see if they can explain the mistake, the revision that was made to their work, and the result

Once a student has mastered a skill, the level of difficulty should increase so that they continue to be challenged to improve their performance.

So what is the difference between students who become expert learners by graduation and those who do not? Learners who excel deliberately practice not just what to learn (content) but how to learn (strategies). Students who continue to be high achievers after graduating from high school display more self-regulatory behaviors and appropriately timed strategy use. Through practice in partnership with an expert learner, their teacher, these students gain the ability to use effective strategies for the task in front of them and the knowledge needed to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own performance so that they are eventually capable of learning independently.

Nina Parrish is the author of The Independent Learner: Metacognitive Exercises to Help K-12 Students Focus, Self-Regulate, and Persevere.

 

                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Karabo Chaba
Karabo Chaba
2023-12-06T00:54:24+0000
Ms Brown was wonderful with tutoring my child in Algebra ll.
Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
Highly Recommend
Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
Beth Kent
Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000

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