I used to study (modern) drums 5+ hours a day. This would happen sometimes, around the time when I was learning a new technique: I'd start on the new material, practice it for a while, then I'd get it to a so-so point and I'd stall there making the same mistake over and over again. At that point I would have to stop and play something else and only come back to the new material the next day, otherwise it would take me weeks to get past the plateau.
The thing is, I think, when you practice, your body (or, I guess, your mind) doesn't know what you're learning- whether it's good or bad. Maybe for dancers or athletes there is some physical feedback, some pain from doing the wrong thing, but for many other types of performance there isn't and so it's very easy to just practice the wrong thing and learn it really, really well.
What you should do is to play it slow enough so you are sure not to make any mistakes. Sometimes that is ridiculously slow.
Split the thing you are learning into chunks... making each chunk as small/simple/easy as you can.
Learn the chunks in reverse order. Starting with chunk N, then N-1, all the way to chunk 1. This way, you always start with the hardest part and then move onto the easier (more practiced) parts.
This keeps the focus on the part you are trying to learn, and reduces learning stress.
edit: Okay, disregard that, the above comment is completely different and I guess I agree now.
That way, when I am playing my instrument when that problematic measure comes, I'll simultaneously sing out the melody or tap out the rhythm; and even if my technique is poor and can't play the fast series 16th notes, I'll hear the correct melody/rhythm/gestalt in my head and what I am off by and try again.
With anything, you need to practice & study with intent, and with almost everything, having a coach/teacher/mentor/guide makes this much, much easier.
See also https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8832006
But only if your practicing is no longer "deliberate practice" as defined by the author. Practice alone isn't the problem. Deliberate practice will always result in improvements. That's what I'm getting from the article.
It didn't address the actual matter, the one in the title, that not all practice makes perfect, until very far in the article.
I then thought about an article that would have given much more information with fewer words, a seminal paper entitled "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance" by Anders Ericsson.
I was then surprised taking a look at the article's author.
It is available for free at https://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/freakonomics/pdf/...
For instance, after graduation, I read a book titled "How to Study in College". Why didn't I ask such an obvious question before. I learned many things, one of which is the Cornell Note-taking method.
I've always been interested in how to search for, acquire, and keep knowledge, how to apply it, how to manage it, and how to track its evolution -mental breadcrumbs, which idea lead to the other?-
So it got me interested in how memory works: how we forget, how we remember, and what to do about it. It led to Hermann Ebbinghaus and "spaced repetition". I wasn't satisfied, though, for I wanted to know the underlying brain processes. The neuroscience behind it. This led me to Hebbian Theory and the concept of Long Term Potentiation. (The Brain from Top to Bottom - http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/) which frankly blew my mind to a thousand shards: memory viewed in terms of ions. (Here's a very nice video from Carleton College "Neuroscience - Long-Term Potentiation"
: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vso9jgfpI_c) and here's a good presentation by Carleton's Dr. Matthew Hollahan: ("How We Can Improve Memory": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXX58QhNfjc)
In the meantime, I put a name on the discipline: Cognition/Cognitive psychology, etc..
That was good, but I still wanted to think about it in a "meta" way. Some overarching theme or discipline that englobes other things I might be missing. After some time, though, I stumbled on "metacognition", and here's where it's truly amazing how the mind works: How didn't I make the connection before between "cognition" and "meta-cognition" even though "meta" was the very word I used to think about it. It's the very thinking about thinking and was humbled because I missed such an obvious link. I have already met that word before and read about it, but it didn't "click" until that very moment.
This has also driven me to think about "learning" in a larger context: learning organization and learning countries. Why are some countries more evolved than others, etc. (Which led me to a book titled "Why Nations Fail" (again, how on Earth did I miss such an obvious question). How can we make poor countries better, or asked from another perspective: in a post-apocalyptic world where all countries are the same, what would we do to rebuild civilization? How to bootstrap civilization? Can we take those steps and apply them on difficult countries. (Bill Gates was on Jimmy Fallon and the latter asked a marvelous, in its form, question: How do you solve a poor country?).
It got me thinking about the necessity of having some conditions A and B present to have X and those conditions being absent in poor countries, you can't have X. It then got me thinking about it backwards: Given C and D, can we get Y that's either a substitute for X or something at least better than nothing. First thing that popped in my mind was the Apollo 13 carbon dioxide filter hacking. After some time, I stumbled across an article titled "The Genius of the Tinkerer" [http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527487039893045755037...] and it appears there is a company called "Design that Matters" that does just that. It also was interesting to see the Apollo 13 feat mentioned. Steven Johnson has also some talks on Youtube and a book titled "Where Good Ideas Come From".
Anyway, the point is you never know where a piece of content can lead to and it can be frustrating to forget some of those references or the title of an article.
Here are some useful resources, too:
[Book]: The Complete Problem Solver - John R. Hayes.
[Book]: Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning - Peter Brown et al.
[Video]: Study Less, Study Smart - Marty Lobdell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlU-zDU6aQ0).
And this is why I was bored out of my mind in school as a kid.
Thanks for the name of the academic paper, I'll spend some time reading it.
The article then concludes with a description of purposeful practice. Where is the promised description of deliberate practice?
My best guess is that anyone can do purposeful practicing simply by changing things up and staying out of one's "comfort zone", whereas deliberate practice is more or less the same thing, with the difference being that you have an experienced mentor guiding you through the process in a more structured manner with a tight feedback loop.
1. Maintaining a difficulty level that is just barely out of your comfort zone: not so hard that you flail wildly, but not so easy that it's trivial. This is touched upon in the article, but presumably "deliberate" practice also deliberately adjusts the difficulty level in response to performance.
2. Mindfulness while you're practicing. The description of "purposeful" practice in the article mentions seeking out errors and correcting them after the fact. The descriptions of "deliberate" practice I've heard mentioned paying careful attention to your performance while you're practicing, so you can instantly correct or rehearse trouble spots. (And this requires a corresponding attention to the difficulty level so that you can spare this attention to avoiding & fixing mistakes.)
> The approach that he took, which we will call “purposeful practice,” turned out to be incredibly successful for him. It isn’t always so successful, as we shall see, but it is more effective than the usual just-enough method—and it is a step toward deliberate practice, which is our ultimate goal.
but then cuts off before it actually describes deliberate practice... guess they want you to buy the book.
There are two main differences between deliberate practice and purposeful practice.
Deliberate practice requires a well established field where there is a clear gap between the top performers and those entering the field.
The second difference is having a teacher who can design practice activities to help you improve on very specific skills.
Taken from the book "Deliberate practice is purposeful practice that knows where it is going and how to get there."
"I guess I will have to buy the book!" Laughing as I assumed there was a book.
I will likely research this topic further whether there is a book or not.
Slightly related, I'm trying to learn how to read faster. My first goal is to become an average reader in terms of speed. My wife is an elementary teacher with a master's in remedial reading. I'm going to see if she can help me.
One issue that she noticed with my verbal recitation is that I stumble when reading sentences with conjunctions.
Now I have something to work on and fix which I hypothesize will increase my speed, and likely comprehension, and should reduce my chances of stopping and rereading sentences.
Also, I would recommend Moonwalking with Einstein which has fair bit of information on how to learn.
Yes it's important to know the capabilites of your language and deployment stack -- but that just requires study, which in my mind is different from practice. I've never found that coding well required the sort of intense dedication that learning to play an instrument well, or play a sport well, requires.
I agree. Which is maybe why Stackoverflow solves so many problems for a developer. You know what you want to do, you know how you want to do it. But you're stuck because you can't make sense of an API or don't know where to look for the functions you need.
But how could we use "deliberate practice" to improve coding? If we assume coding to stand for solving problems with code, then it seems we'd need to deliberately practice problem solving.
It's possible to measure problem solving skills, and push those skills outside of a comfort zone. But it's not as straightforward as measurement, "I'll play this passage without mistakes 3 times in a row", or "I'll place this golf ball on the fairway 5 times" and adjusting performance based on feedback.
You can also do katas whether it's practicing TDD or setting up a new instance of a project in whatever framework you're using. I also find katas useful for keeping familiar with syntax of languages that I don't use a lot, which is useful if you do a lot of language switching.
Maybe practicing this allows you to get into the zone more easily since you won't be thinking about the mechanics. Getting into the zone more easily can lead to getting better and deeper understanding of the material.
A guitar player practices repetitive drills that aren't creative to help improve.
Essentially I wonder if the problem is that in some things we learn (eg coding) there isn't really a defined "ladder" that allows someone to practise harder and harder things in a deliberate way.
Quite a cool article. Lots to consider. Phrase around my 'woodshed' was always "Practice makes better" though because perfect and guitars don't really ever align.
Upon first attempts, there is simply no ability to perform the task at all. No purchase on which to begin efforts. But somehow the trying to do it eventually does work, and will manifest as a breakthrough.
This is in contrast to practice if of skills where a path of incremental improvements is followed. (As described in the article when learning to memorize strings of numbers).
What's strange is that the beginning attempts feel like you're not learning anything, because you actually aren't doing anything that seems similar to the action you are trying to learn.
Not that they don't apply, they do. But "many" of the times, not "most", let alone "all of the times".
And you have aphorisms that are exact opposites of each other, like "birds of a feather flock together" and "opposites attract".
The end result? people use them more to support their opinions or gut feelings rather than uttering them after a careful analysis of the situation.
In terms of rigor, they stand at the same level as anecdotal evidence, meaning something that adds practically zero information to an ongoing situation.
"The Fastest Way To Learn"
While looking, I also came across:
"Why Slow Movement Builds Coordination":
"There are several excellent reasons to use slow and gentle movement as a means to develop coordination. Probably the most interesting reason (I'll start with that one) is based on an obscure principle called the Weber Fechner rule. The Weber Fechner rule describes the relationship between the magnitude of a particular stimulus and the brain's ability to sense differences in the amount of the stimulus. The basic rule is that as you increase the stimulus, the ability to tell a difference in the amount of the stimulus decreases. This is a very common sense idea. Imagine you are in a dark room with only one candle lit. It will be very easy to sense the difference when one additional candle is lit. But if you are in a room with two hundred candles, you will have no idea when an extra candle comes on.
This rule works for all varieties of sensory perception, including sensations of muscular effort. So, imagine you are holding a one pound potato in your hand while blindfolded. If a fly landed on the weight you would not know the difference, but if a little bird landed you would know. Now imagine holding a fifty pound potato. You wouldn't be able to feel the little bird landing. It would have to be an eagle. The point is that when you increase the weight from one pound to fifty pounds, you become about fifty times less sensitive to changes in the amount of muscular force you are using to lift the weight."
I'm not sure how much it is possible to generalize from pure mental practice like memorizing numbers to physical practice like playing the piano (like this article does, without much substance beyond hand-waving about "brains will be brains", so to speak).
But as mentioned in the comments here, and touched on in the article, it is probably true that it is important to be able to understand your own ability and progress (what you do right, what you get wrong), to continue to challenge one selves (making no mistakes makes for bad practice, but making the same mistakes over and over also makes for bad practice).
I think that for complex skills, one of the easiest ways to get direct feedback, is to work with someone who is a master already: spar one-on-one with a world champion, or play with a maestro, pair-program with an experienced veteran of several successful projects -- and you'll get much more from your sessions than if you practice alone, or with others that don't know what they're doing.
We often don't have the luxury of practising one-on-one with a master, and then the challenge becomes to a) still get correct feedback on what we're doing, and b) find out what we should be trying to achieve. The latter can sometimes be helped by looking at videos of people that preform at an excellent level, reading great code etc.
"Researchers have discovered a much faster way to learn new skills"