Deliberate practice is practicing with a purpose and a goal in mind. As we go through the day we practice doing all sorts of skills whether or not we think about it. In our day-to-day routines, what skills do we have full proficiency? Why are we better at some skills than others? Is it because we enjoy some activities more than others or is it because that we are talented at doing certain skills?
Researchers have dug deep to answer these questions but certain trends are becoming clear. The question, and debate, of whether “nature or nurture” is the most important suggests that there is one primary requirement to achieving expert performance status. This is that expert performing artists must use and develop “deliberate practice.” In fact, meeting this level of mastery suggests that 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of intense deliberate practice, is required.
What does this deliberate practice mean? This means that for true mastery of the performing art to occur students must invest vast amounts of time to develop specific skills. In contrast, most learning models have students learn through imitation, trial, and error. Although students do learn from these easy to assemble methodologies, it is harder to improve. Thus valuable time is lost.
What do I have to do to use “deliberate practice?” According to Peter K. Smith and A. D. Pellegrini, to access one of the most effective approaches to practicing you must have:
- Sustained concentration and effort
- Ample access to appropriate practice facilities
- Properly sequenced instruction
- Maintain purposeful practice schedule – no more than four to five hours
When Deliberate Practice Occurs
When deliberate practice occurs there must be an acceptance that high levels of time and energy will be used. In addition, at times progress will be slow and a big picture mindset must be maintained to persevere. During your practice you must also:
- Have mental representation of the performance goal
- Be able to materialize the performance goal
- Monitor and reflect on your performance
Practicing has a strong correlation to becoming a performing artist expert. I feel that as teachers it is our responsibility to provide our students with the tools, such as deliberate practice methods, to use as a catalyst for success. As educators, I encourage you to share your experiences, successes, and ideas with the profession so that we may meet the needs of our students and build upon music education’s evolution.