SKILLS PRACTICE – a ‘nice to have’ or an essential element of every training programme?By James Larter
I’m definitely a firm believer in the latter, which is why RoleplayUK puts so much emphasis on the ‘doing’ element of all training, to support all our learning and development interventions.
To me it’s natural common sense – the more you do something the better at it you become… but is it as simple as that, and what’s the science to support it?
Let’s take a look at the findings of some eminent researchers:
Dr K Anders Ericsson, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University is an internationally recognised researcher in the psychological nature of expertise and human performance in domains such as medicine, music and sports, his research states:
“Expertise relies on practice. Practice must be a cognitively, effortful activity involving a reflective component and quality feedback from an expert coach.”
Anders’ work also formed the basis for the widely accepted 10,000 hour rule to become an expert, which formed the focus of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Outliers. In his book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders dismantles the misinterpretation of his original research and highlights the difference between ‘traditional’ practice, ‘purposeful’ practice and ‘deliberate’ practice. He explains the need to identify specific things you wish to improve, and then practise with focus purely on those specific elements, in time dedicated to practise – deliberate practice works by stringing together large numbers of small improvements, which in turn add to significant change.
The importance of practice is also the focus of Josh Kaufman in his book The Personal MBA, where he states that to go from “knowing nothing to being pretty good” takes about 20 hours of practice – just 45 minutes every day for a month!
So how does this theory translate into the world of training?
Jennifer Long, from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learner surmised:
“Making a commitment to practice is essential to maximize the impact of training. After all, practice is the only way to become proficient in a new skill or behaviour.”
Another interesting piece or research by Mark Dombeck PH.D examined learning knowledge versus skill practice where he found that:
“Knowledge can be studied, but skills you desire to learn or improve must be practiced. You have to practice – to do – skills in order to learn them. This is because, generally knowledge is something you learn mentally and abstractly, while skills involve some amount of physical coordination, or experiential learning to take place. Skills are connected to the world and allow you to manipulate the world, while knowledge is more intangible.”
“You can learn such skills or others in a class or group, or from a description printed in a book or web page – but they won’t help you and you won’t learn them unless you practice them.”
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The theme is clear, if you have the opportunity to practise and receive quality feedback, you can grow in confidence and get better – it’s good to know that there’s more to practising than pure common sense! And that skills practice deserves a well-earned place in every training programme.
To find out more about RoleplayUK’s skills practice opportunities, either using Skills Coaches in person, to embed your training in situ, or via our unique remote skills practice platform, Professional Roleplayers Online (PRO), just give me a call.
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