Wednesday, November 28, 2012


"You are what you do, not what you'll say you do."  - C.J. Jung

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell

Last night on the sidelines of a playoff football game, I had the chance to talk with a wrestling coach. I asked him how he takes a novice wrestler and makes him a successful wrestler.  His answer was, "practice, 1'000's of repetitions."  

I often make the same remark when it comes to students progress in math algorithms--for most, it takes about 1,000 repetitions to master the skill.  It's the same with reading, the more you read, the better you get. 

I know there's science out there that points to ways to speed up the learning process for skills.  There are also more and more tech tools coming our way to lead the path to mastery.  Later, I'm sure we'll see chips implanted that help individuals acquire algorithmic skills such as math facts, keyboarding skill and a certain level of  knowledge (this is both a frightening and exciting proposition).

For now though, how much of the time in classrooms should be spent on practice, and what should that practice look like.  As much as possible, the practice activities should be embedded in more complex, meaningful tasks, but that's not always possible due to time constraints, standards' goals, student numbers and other factors.

Hence, at this point in the education road, teachers have to strive for a balanced classroom approach that leaves time for practice with simple tasks as well as complex projects.  

The team I was rooting for last night won the game, and the reason they won, in a large part, was passion and practice.  The players devoted the past year and more to developing their game through regular workouts in the weight room, team practice during the season and conditioning off season.  They were strong and ready for the game.  We want to ensure that our students are similarly ready for the "game of learning" with plenty of practice aimed at developing fluid, flexible, facile learners.  Exactly how to do that is a continually evolving process.

Psychology Today Article: Why Practice Makes Perfect