Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Does Deliberative Practice Lead to Quick Proficiency?

In Social Media Conversations, I posted the story of how this post came about.  Briefly, I sent Ken Allan the following question:

Any thoughts on how deliberative practice relates to becoming something less than an expert. It seems like it should be applicable to all levels of achievement, but everything I'm reading is the study of becoming an expert. Is that just aspirational, or is deliberative practice also studied for quick attainment of proficiency?

And he responded with Proficiency and Deliberative Practice.

The best way for me to process something like his post, is for me to walk through it and take notes.  In this case, I'm going to create a post out of it.

Ken starts with some foundation around terms of 'expert' and 'proficient' and it is really a spectrum:

all according to where the benchmarks lie for ‘proficient’ and for ‘expert’.

Then he gets at the crux of where my question comes from … expert status is more difficult to achieve these days:

It is becoming increasingly more difficult for expertise to reach expert level. The matter of change, which can arrive every 6 months to a year, or even more frequently in technology, will limit the efficiency of any aspiring expert in reaching true expert level.

This is the reason that I wrote the question.  I think of myself as being proficient at learning new subjects quickly, maybe even getting to an expert level at aspects of that.  But I'm not an expert in any of these subjects.  Jack of all trades.  My core questions were:

In this time of rapid change, is expertise really the goal anymore?

Does Deliberative Practice Lead to Quick Proficiency?

Ken landed on the same alternative goal, "quick proficiency" …

Here were some of his strategies:

  • identify the required base-knowledge/skills, foster strategies for these to be recognized as key, and provide avenues for their appropriate acquisition and practice
  • cull redundant and/or recursive procedures or procedural loops in workplace routines
  • provide incentive for revisiting and refining/updating key knowledge/skills/procedures (used to be called ‘training’) to clarify current understanding
  • foster a culture where its acceptable to ask questions to do with key knowledge/skills/procedures - in other words, it's OK not to be an expert.

Good stuff.

It's interesting to see how these relate to and enhance the core elements of Deliberative Practice:

  • Deliberate practice identifies specific, defined elements of performance that need to be improved and works them intently independent of actual performance.
  • Goals are set around each element of performance.
  • Feedback and coaching is continuously available.
  • Deliberative practice is hard, not fun and separated from actual performance.

In reading studies on deliberative practice, it's pretty clear that there's a nice body of research showing that this works.  And the reality is that likely you've seen this with your kids – think improving soccer skills, study skills, etc.

However, do these same elements hold true when we are talking about a world where expertise is not the goal?  Where quick proficiency is the goal?  Where most people will be in a role for only a few years?  Where they need to get up to speed immediately?

I'm also trying to figure out how this relates to Work Literacy.  I believe that some of the methods described in the Tool Set series are actually part of a core set of work skills where concept workers should develop expert level.  However, even there, with the rapid change in these tools and methods, rapid proficiency might be a better goal.  And the use of these work skills are often about rapid proficiency or leveraging the expertise of others to act like an expert.

I don't expect that there's a simple answer to any of this and the great thing about social media conversations is that they can take their time.

I hope you will contribute your thoughts to this conversation.

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