This blog has gained many new readers over the past year. Because of that, I thought it might be worth sharing a daily “A Look Back” where I share a best post from the past twelve years. You can also see all of my choices for “Best” posts here.
There has been an on-going debate on the role deliberate practice can play in developing expertise, and I’ve grown a bit exasperated by it. I shared some initial thoughts in this post, which was originally published in 2015.
After reading it, you might want to considering exploring follow-up ones I did on the same topic:
I just don’t understand why some researchers spend so much time trying to debunk the value of deliberate practice.
Another big study was released this week (thanks to Dylan Wiliam for the tip). Rethinking Expertise: A Multifactorial Gene–Environment Interaction Model of Expert Performance. is behind a paywall, but I forked over a few bucks to gain access to it.
Its big conclusion is that expertise is not only related to deliberate practice – it’s also connected to genetic differences and “personality, interests, social attitudes, motivational variables.” They call it a “multifactorial gene– environment interaction model.”
Is that really a big surprise?
It seems to me that deliberate practice debunkers often raise a red herring saying that advocates say that anybody can become an expert through deliberate practice.
I haven’t heard that…
What I have read and learned in research on the topic is that deliberate practice is the most important element in developing expertise that is within a person’s control.
Obviously, genetics are going to play a role, though I was disappointed that the authors of this study did not acknowledge the generally accepted research that finds a person’s economic status impacts if their genes maximize their full potential (see yesterday’s post, Study Finds That Nurture Equals Nature In The United States).
And, obviously, motivation also plays a key role. It seems to me it’s part-and-parcel of deliberate practice, but I do think the these researchers make a good point by highlighting it explicitly as another factor in developing expertise. Motivation falls into the realm of Social Emotional Learning and, as I’ve pointed out before, researchers have found that early childhood and adolescence are the two periods when it is easiest to strengthen those kinds of skills.
The useful “take-away” I get from this paper is that there’s value into more directly integrating discussions about self-control, perseverance, intrinsic motivation into lessons on deliberate practice. I probably haven’t made those connections as clear as I could in talking with students.
I just wish, however, some researchers spent more time using their substantial intellects in figuring out real world connections instead of arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
What do you think?
I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.