12 July 2009

Deliberate Practice

According to extensive studies on how experts develop their specialized knowledge, one of the primary factors is deliberate practice (Ericsson, Krampe, Tesch-Romer, 1993). This means that it is through prolonged efforts to improve performance skills or understanding, whether in chess, sports, music, science, etc., that result in expert performance. Such effortful activities (deliberate practice) need to be carefully designed and administered to optimize improvement with the help of coaches, mentors, teachers, often parents, etc. Many expert characteristics that were once believed to reflect innate talents are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years.

For computer science,
most of the current computing education I have been exposed to do not include significant amount of "practice". There may be some reading assignments, a few programming assignments, but the amount of actual practice is not significant. If expert knowledge does require significant amount of time and effort, we should explore 1) how to deconstruct learning of computer science concepts into sequences of practice activities, and 2) how these activities can be incorporated in the lectures / labs and perhaps even other available technologies, such as online and mobile learning, to promote deliberate practice beyond class time.


Ericsson, K.A., Krampe, R.T., Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review. 100(3), 363 - 406.

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