Engaging in Deliberate Practice

Ever wonder what makes some people really good at what they do? How did Michael Jordan become the greatest basketball player of all time? What did it take for Toni Morrison to write a Pulitzer Prize winning novel? Although Hollywood might have us believe that great teachers are great because of their innate talent (an inspired teacher stands on his desk and all students suddenly care about poetry!), in reality, it’s likely that people who are really good at things practice, practice, practice. And then they practice some more. In fact, research indicates that frequent and mindful engagement in teaching techniques, prompting cycles of teaching – evaluation – revision, is the main factor contributing to increasing expertise as a teacher. In other words, deliberate practice may make all the difference.  

What is deliberate practice?  Deliberate practice is a highly structured activity engaged in the specific goal of improving performance.  Extended deliberate practice is a key component for attaining expert performance and is thought to be more important than the role of innate ability in development towards expertise.

At UVEI, our whole approach is focused on helping educators learn from experience. As a main focus this year, UVEI’s faculty is asking how we can encourage teachers to engage in more deliberate practice. Coaching, one-on-one support and feedback are already core components of our programs.  The hard question is: how do we encourage working teachers (a busy group) to keep intentionally practicing and reflecting on new techniques without loading up on tasks and busy work?  

That is the question that will occupy our attention this year, and we look forward to sharing what we learn with the education community!

Commentary by Page Tompkins

Page Tompkins is UVEI's Executive Director and Chief Academic Officer.  He can be followed on Twitter @pagetompkins.

Other commentaries by Page can be found at:
http://uvei.edu/blog/326-how-coaching-helpsteachers-grow
http://uvei.edu/blog/302-schools-need-to-grow-their-own-coaches