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Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect
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So, I think opportunities for practice and feedback are really important in training. And certainly, in the training that I design and deliver, plenty of practical opportunity, plenty of chance to try out what they’ve learned and to get feedback on that is something I always build into my programmes. So, a nice technique I use where people are learning about a skill is to ask people to work in groups of three where two people practise the skill. So, it might be a conversation, for example, questioning and listening techniques. Two people can practise those and the third person can be the observer.
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So, the third person gives feedback to the other two people, so not only are the two people receiving feedback, but the third person is practising the skill of giving feedback. So I think it’s definitely important in a training programme.
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I think some of the common mistakes are not doing that training needs analysis and almost taking an off-the-shelf solution to address the training need. I think a really big problem is not evaluating. And for me, the process of evaluation should start before the training even happens. So, evaluation should start at the design stage, the diagnostic stage. And that helps to inform, you know, what are the benefits of this training, how is it going to impact individuals and the business or the team. Key performance indicators or metrics or measures of success aren’t identified. I think that’s a big mistake and that often happens with training.
We have previously touched upon the issue of practice, a critical issue for making training effective. Why is it important to practise newly-developed skills and what should the practice look like for maximum learning?
Watch the above video in which Anna Chapman discusses the importance of practice and feedback.
Practice is the key to mastering a skill. With practice, the demands on your attention get smaller, although sheer repetition of the elements making up a skill is not enough to bring about improvement and retention. If practice is going to ‘make perfect’, there must be a desire on the part of the individual to achieve an improvement in performance, and there is also a need for constant feedback.
How exactly should the practice opportunities be structured? For example, should practice all be done at once in a concentrated block, or is it preferable to spread it over several training sessions?
It has been found that for learning manual skills, including motor skills, distributed practice (smaller practice opportunities spread over time) is more effective than massed practice. A meta-analysis by Donovan and Radosevich (1997) found massed practice presents too much information and fails to distinguish vital elements of learning.
With verbal material, massed practice can be better, but the less meaningful the material to be learned, the more difficult it is to learn it in a singular concentrated (massed) session.
Variables such as the optimum time interval between practice sessions and the length of the practice session will depend on the trainee’s age, personality, previous learning, experience and the nature of the task or skill to be learned. If the interval between practices is too long, the individual may forget the content. If it is too short, they may suffer from boredom, mental or physical fatigue.

Your task

Consider our training scenario at the beginning of Week 1. Based on your learning about the importance of practice and how this applies to learning certain skills, what would be your recommendations for the trainer responsible for designing the programme – should training be planned as a concentrated block or should it be distributed, and why?

Reference

Donovan, J. J., and Radosevich, D. J. (1999) ‘A Meta-Analytic Review of the Distribution of Practice Effect: Now You See It, Now You Don’t’. Journal of Applied Psychology [online] 84 (5), 795. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1ea4mrv/TN_apa_articles10.1037/0021-9010.84.5.795 [5 August 2019]
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