Deliberate Practice vs Naive Practice: Reaching Your Teaching Potential

A key to unlocking your potential is learning the difference between:

  1. “Naive Practice” – a form of repetition, and
  2. “Purposeful or Deliberate Practice” – designed to specifically build on strengths and improve weaknesses

Is someone who has been driving for 20 years a better driver than someone who has been driving for five? (The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it?) Anders Ericsson has spent his lifetime researching how people develop expertise in every walk of life. And he teaches us — amazingly — that the answer is, no, the 20-year driver is NOT better!

After Automation, You Stop Improving

Once you have reached [a] satisfactory skill level and automated your performance — your driving, your tennis playing, your baking of pies — you have stopped improving. People often misunderstand this because they assume that the continued driving or tennis playing or pie baking is a form of practice and that if they keep doing it they are bound to get better at it, slowly perhaps, but better nonetheless. They assume that someone who has been driving for twenty years must be a better driver than someone who has been driving for five, that a doctor who has been practicing medicine for twenty years must be a better doctor than one who has been practicing for five… But no. Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement. – Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool

Ericsson is not referring to someone who is a beginner. Presumably, effort of most any type by the beginner brings results. But when trying to continue to improve, to develop further expertise in a chosen area, then we must not rely on “naive practice, which is essentially just doing something repeatedly, and expecting that the repetition alone will improve one’s performance.” Instead, we must engage in “purposeful practice” where practice is specifically designed to bring about improvement.