Ineffective Lectures – The 200 words project

(continued from parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Anders Ericsson’s research on deliberate practice has been extensively in training elite athletes and musicians. But, what about in universities?

Nobel prize winning Physicist Carl Weiman from Stanford university collaborated with a Post Doc and a Graduate student from the University of British Columbia to experiment with redesigning a Physics course. Weiman believed that Professor centered lectures in universities have been ineffective for centuries and he has been on a quest to make things better.

For this course, Weiman and team focused on teaching skills versus disseminating knowledge. So, they redesigned the class to mimic a fast-paced athletic training session centered around the students. They broke a lecture down into various concepts. Each concept had a series of multiple choice questions that students answered in groups using clickers. They got immediate feedback followed by a short instructor led debrief and then moved to the next concept. The results? A 20 point improvement in attendance and a 15 point improvement in scores.

Weiman conducted the experimented both in UBC and the University of Boulder and both universities have begun redesigning courses to offer this format. How can we apply this in how we teach and learn?

Cognitive scientists have found that learning only happens when you have this intense engagement. It’s almost certainly the case that lectures have been ineffective for centuries. But now we’ve figured out a better way to teach” that makes students an active participant in the process. – Prof Carl Weiman

Source and thanks to: Peak by Anders Ericsson, Carl Weiman’s paper on the experiment, ScienceMag’s article
We’ve spent 6 weeks with Prof Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice. Next week will involve a final post providing what might seem like a counter point to his work (but isn’t – spoiler).. And what we might take away from all of this.

The dangers of innate talent – The 200 words project

(continued from parts 1, 2, 3, 4).
In the many examples mentioned in past weeks, we’ve seen that “talent” is developed by deliberate practice. If you were wondering if it applied to sports, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” starts with an interesting insight into how sports talent is picked. Gladwell analyzed data on professional athletes to show that the overwhelming majority are born in the second half of the year. Since this means they fall in the older half of the class, they tend to be physically better developed in their age group when they are young. This gets them selected for intensive practice and the rest is history.

Ericsson’s research supports this – for some sports, one could speculate about some minimum talent requirements – e.g. height and body size. Beyond that, however, practice seems to trump everything else. We also have strong reason to believe that early practice shapes our physical and mental attributes. So, we might be born with a preference for music over sports, for example. But, that counts for little if we don’t practice it.

And, therein lies the dark side of the innate talent hypothesis – believing in innate talent, we tend to write kids off before they have a chance to practice.

Nobody questions that Mozart’s achievements were extraordinary compared with those of his contemporaries. What’s often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert—he became one. – Anders Ericsson

Source and thanks to: Peak by Anders Ericsson

The case against innate talent – The 200 words project

(continued from parts 1, 2, 3).
Researcher K Anders Ericsson has researched expert performance for the past 30+ years. In every case, his analysis has revealed one thread – every innate talent/prodigy story can be deconstructed to reveal “deliberate practice.”

Deliberate practice is practice that is typically guided by a coach that has specific goals, involves continuous stretching of the body and mind and, by nature, is hard. If you’ve felt the challenge when learning a new skill (whether it is a tennis swing or the guitar) from a coach, you’ve tasted deliberate practice. And, behind every great prodigy such as a Mozart or a Tiger Woods, there was typically a coach (in their case, dad) who developed their skills early. These practice techniques have been refined over time to the delight of competitive parents globally. Search for “child prodigy” on YouTube and you’ll notice the increase in the number of child prodigies over the years.

Often, kids with innate talent – be it IQ’s in mental tasks or better physical attributes in physical tasks – may get a head start. But, it doesn’t count for much without deliberate practice.

If innate talent isn’t everything we thought, what are the dangers of the belief?

While there is a huge benefit to starting young, it is only too late if the field doesn’t allow for participation based on age. Today’s octogenarian athletes are fitter than ever before. In 2015, Don Pellman became the first 100 year old to run a 100 meters in less than 27 seconds. – Anders Ericsson paraphrased

Source and thanks to: Peak by Anders Ericsson, The deliberate practice research paper

(The 200 words project involves sharing a story from a book/blog/article I’ve read within 200 words)

Learning and digging gold

An inefficient gold digger needs many good mines to extract a good harvest of gold. An effective gold digger, on the other hand, needs only one.

Learning is similar. You don’t need to have 20 years of experience to have sufficient learning. You can extract 20 years worth of learning from 1 year if you set your mind to it. Growing old is not an option but growing up by making the most of the experiences life throws at you definitely is.

So, while “am I learning” is an interesting question to ask in a situation, it isn’t terribly useful. Yes, you are learning something most of the time. But, asking yourself “am I extracting maximum learning out of this?” changes the game.

Just one trait about effective gold diggers – they don’t stop when they get one mine right. They keep working and widen that gulf. Learning is not different. Ask those who take time regularly to read, for example, and they’ll remind you that there is no difference between the ones who don’t read and the ones who can’t. Learning, like any other skill, needs work – perfecting it requires constant deliberate practice.