Have you ever wondered how some people make things look so easy?
Recently, I was teaching a group of Year 10 students and whilst modelling the process of annotating an extract from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, one of the students remarked ‘Sir, you make it look so easy.’ I’ll assume that part of what he was saying was ‘Whenever I try this, it’s really hard and I struggle to get good ideas down in a relatively short space of time.’
Indeed, I’m sure it did look easy to him, but, what he couldn’t see was the long process/journey filled with countless failures, some triumphs and inevitable setbacks. What he was seeing was, one can argue, the finished article; the polished perfection (I’d like to think anyway!). This lead to me thinking about the journey from novice to expert and the role of the educator in this journey.
Inarguably, our job as educators is to move students from one phase to another: from novice to expert (obviously not forgetting all the messy bits in between!). Our aim is to get them to a point where they can make things look easy.
Learning is not always fun
Learning is not always fun; in fact, it’s downright hard at times. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers suggests that to reach the level of expert it takes 10,000 hours. This is not 10,000 hours or leisurely, laid-back practice. This is what we might call deliberate practice; conscientious, thoughtful application.
I’ve come up with 5 ways to help you in supporting students to engage in deliberate practice so as to begin to move from novice to expert:
1-be a process rather than outcomes based educator. By focusing on the process, learners become more engaged and cognisant of the incremental steps required in order to become an expert. They are more likely to see the bigger picture of learning.
2-Value failure. By creating a culture where failure is valued, students are more likely to take greater risks. This is critical because becoming an expert will require one to push the boundaries of possibility and mostly work just outside of that comfort zone.
3-consistently repeat core practices so they become innate and instinctual. What makes Messi such a ruthless player in front of goal? What made Beckham able to calculate distance, space and velocity to a degree where he could place a ball on the head of a running teammate from 60 yards away? Only with consistent repetition will expert like qualities become automated. The legend Bruce Lee said ‘I don’t fear the man who practises 1000 kicks. I fear the man who practises one kick a 1000 times’. The fruit of repetition is skill.
4-Explitcly tell students that learning is hard and often a struggle. Cultivate a culture that values or at least appreciates the struggle. Remind every one of them that they were given birth to. This birthing was likely a painful, stressful and arduous process; now look at the smiling cherubs produced as a result of this struggle! Very little of value is created without some sacrifice of comfort and ease.
5-Set goals and celebrate milestones. As a kid, I was always intrigued when F1 drivers would pop a bottle of champagne whenever they were on the podium. The open celebration was a reminder that when you reach a goal, this should be marked with some symbolic ritual or practice. It’s a reminder of the journey and hard work put in to reach success.
I hope these five tips have been useful. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment