3 Steps to Create Expertise based on K. Anders Ericsson’s Research

By  now, you have probably heard about the “10,000” rule, the notion, popularized by Malcom Gadwell, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an “expert” in a skill.

How in the world as an educator, are you going to be able to accomplish this with your students?

  1. Read Florida State University professor Anders Ericsson’s new book, Peak- Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Ericsson, the researcher who helped lay the research foundation for the “10,000 hour” rule has co-written a lively, entertaining book with Robert Pool, that helps clarify the reality behind the “10,000 hour” rule, reminding us that it is not quite as simple as repeating the same C major scale for 10,0000 hours and becoming Yo-Yo Ma. In some cases, it doesn’t even take 10,000 hours to become extremely competent in something.
  2. Maybe your students can achieve something more like competency in 1,000 hours? But….It does take deliberate practice. That is it takes consistent, regular, specific feedback to ensure that the repetition leads to improvement.  The more you are able to carve time in your day to work with individuals, or  small groups, or to model the appropriate way to tackle a problem or write a paper, the more likely you are to increase proficiency.
  3. The student must have a clear vision or understanding of what “expertise” is. This is where modeling the behavior, the skill, the competency through your own demonstration is essential. Sharing the “ideal” essay. Demonstrating the steps of  solving inequalities, speaking in the World Language you are teaching, are all essential.
  4. Okay, so here is the bonus number 4. Making all of this explicit to your students. Let them know about this book and Ericsson’s brilliant research which lays out these ideas with great clarity and with excellent, memorable examples. Let them know that racing through their homework while listening to music and chatting online with friends is not the path to expertise! I especially loved the story about how Ben Franklin learned to write well!

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Just remember, all of our students are not going to be “experts” with the short time that we have with them. But, in general, many of our schools seem to do a good job with developing students with enough proficiency to be life-long learners and highly productive citizens. Many also become experts later in life. It is reassuring to know that we have an important  part in this process.

I think two other important topics that can be understood from Ericsson and Pool’s excellent book is that we as educators of course could use specific feedback about our teaching practice, so videotaping our lessons, pairing with a trusted colleague, and having a clear idea of what we are trying to accomplish can help us all.

Additionally, Ericsson echoes a theme established by Carol Dweck in Mindset- The New Psychology of Success,  that IQ is not the sole determinant of success!! This is such a radical paradigm shift for our society, that I think we are still just in the early stages of adopting to this notion. I hope Ericsson, Pool, Dweck and others leading in this way achieve greater recognition than simply a best-selling book- I hope their ideas actually become so widely accepted that the notion of aptitude testing or academic placements based on test scores fall by the wayside as the antiquated notions they are.

Moreover, I hope all life long learners are inspired to  continue their journey of “dreaming, learning, doing” and help inspire others on this challenging journey.

Author: JMiller/wideopenresearch

JMiller Writer and Educator

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