A few months ago, Anders Ericsson passed away. Anders discovered that the secret to world-class excellence isn’t talent—it is practising in a specific way that he called “deliberate practice.”
In meticulous studies of chess, music, sports, and a range of other fields, Anders found that the willingness to engage in deliberate practice distinguishes the truly great from the merely good. Deliberate practice entails working with a coach or teacher to set specific challenging goals for improvement, concentrating completely while practicing, receiving immediate feedback, and then repeating the cycle again and again.
What magic might ensue if students learn the scientific truth that deliberate practice, independent of talent, can raise everything from a Mathematics grade to a free throw percentage. What if students knew that working toward challenging goals was bound to make them frustrated, but that frustration was often a positive sign that they were on the path to improvement?
This is why we teach our students to practise like experts. Students learn that frustration while studying, which so many people reflexively avoid, is a signal that can mean you are working on your weaknesses…. When everything goes perfectly, it may feel good, but it’s probably a sign that you’re not challenging yourself.
So, we do encourage students to aim high. We show them that you practise things you can’t yet do. We ask them to say aloud, “This is so frustrating because I’m challenging myself.” We don’t let students settle for high achievement alone.