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Education Plus

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‘Deliberate practice' the key to excel

To score the highest marks in the Board exam, the skills required are speed writing, accuracy and avoiding silly mistakes



Gear up: Top rankers of any Board exam display a lot of personal initiative and drive.

With about three months to go for the school Board exam, every parent is anxious to ensure that their ward scores the maximum mark. With the cost of professional education going up year after year, more than the school, the parents go through higher tension and stress. The aim of most of the parents and students is to get into prestigious institutions such as the IITs or BITS, Pilani etc. Some thirty years ago, seventy five percent marks was sufficient to secure a seat in some reputed professional college. But now any mark less than ninety five percent is seen as a low score! Every year the top mark is superseded by the new set of students. If you see the marks of some of the top students, you really become jealous.

Is there a secret for scoring the highest mark? Is it to do with genetic factor? What is that the most intelligent children do to score the highest mark? If there is a formula that they follow, can it be duplicated? The answer to this question is: yes!

The answer to this question can be found in the theory of ‘deliberate practice'. The amazing concept of ‘deliberate practice' was first presented by Dr. K Anders Ericsson, who is Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, in his paper ‘The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance'. The basic principles presented in that paper are very relevant for a parent who wants to make his child a genius. If the parents understand this simple yet powerful tool, they can tap the full potential of their child and make them real genius.

The fundamental principle stated by Anders Ericsson is that the experts not only practiced, but they practiced deliberately. You take the example of anyone who has achieved great things in life, like the world class tennis players, soccer players, cricketers, violinists etc.

It was not merely their will to succeed or their inner motivation or enthusiasm which put them in the hall of fame. It's their deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is a systematic and scientific way how to apply the maxim ‘practice makes it perfect' for making a child a genius.

In this article I am going to discuss some of the basic fundamental principles of ‘Deliberate Practice' and how it can be applied to preparing very high marks in the Board Examination.

1. Deliberate practice presupposes a systematic approach to honing any particular skill intentionally to become an expert. If a parent wants his child to score very high mark in a subject, he should make him to apply his efforts systematically. The theory of deliberate practice says that it takes about 10 years of deliberate practice for over 10,000 hours to become world class in any field. This means that the child who has to score the highest marks should spend a lot of hours of hard work over the next ninety days, just as a world chess champion prepares for the world class championship match. You can replace the 10 years by ninety days and 10,000 hours by a suitable quantification. It calls for a high quality of focus and commitment by the parent and the child.

2. We know the tenet that there is no substitute for hard work. But hard work is not a pleasant experience both for the parent and the child. If you have to compete on an all India basis, it calls for a very high degree of mental discipline. So, deliberate practice is not an inherently enjoyable experience.

The student should be mentally mature to sacrifice the temptation of looking at the cricket match and other TV serials. If you go through the newspaper interviews of last year's toppers, you will notice this trait in them.

3. Deliberate practice is different from normal practice. For example, if a student writes a midterm test, it cannot be counted as hours practiced. What can be counted is the voluntary ‘home tests' he has taken in addition to the class test which a teacher gives. Similarly the time spent in the school should not be counted as deliberate practice.

That is for the sake of attendance and getting clarifications and tips from the teacher. What will be counted for deliberate practice, is the number of hours the student works outside the normal class room. It's something like the net practice of a cricketer.

4. Deliberate practice calls for a systematic identification of the specific skill to be identified with reference to the Board exam. For example, to score the highest marks in the Board exam, the skills required are speed writing, accuracy, avoiding silly mistakes and transfer errors etc. These skills are not taught in the classroom!

The student should pick up these skills by practicing to write and not by reading!

The mistake many students commit is the fact that they spend more time in reading than in writing.

For every one hour read, three hours should be spent in writing. In the ultimate analysis, our examination system is assessing writing skills and not reading skills. Top scorers indulge in lot of writing practice than reading practice.

5. What is required is practice, practice and more practice. For doing this, the student should be helped to distinguish between value adding and no value adding activities. The student should be helped to log his daily activities for every half an hour for a week to find out his style of managing his available time.

6. Deliberate practice calls for total involvement and personal interest by the child as well as the parent. The top rankers of any Board exam display a lot of personal initiative and drive. They are willing to run that extra mild and undergo the pain and suffering. This mindset is a result of the quality of communication between the child and the parent. In fact this principle is the most important of all the principle of deliberate practice.

7. The theory of deliberate practice emphases the critical role of the coach or trainer. There cannot be a top performance without the help of a good teacher. The feedback from the teacher is very important to rectify the errors and mistakes like the input from a coach of world class cricketer. If a student scores the highest mark in the Board exam, the credit should also go to the teachers concerned, but for whose mid course corrections, a centum in Math would not have been possible!

The most important issue is, how to make the children to sustain the hard work required for deliberate practice?

Neuro Linguistic Programming offers some of the excellent tools such as constructive visualisation, anchoring, six step reframing, timeline etc., to convert a mere desire to become a world class genius into a mission or passion which alone will give the mental stamina to stand the rigorous practice and workout schedule.

(The writer is an educationist and NLP Consultant trained in United States on NLP and can be contacted on timeline@vsnl.com)

N.C. SRIDHARAN

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