Deliberate Practice Uses Constant Feedback

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The next characteristic of deliberate practice is that feedback is continuously available. Because deliberate practice involves a great deal of repetition, it is necessary to make sure that the skill is being practiced correctly.

Continuous feedback can come from many sources. The observation of a coach or teacher is the most common form of feedback. The legendary basketball coach John Wooden was known for peppering his practice sessions with short directives to his players: “Dribble to here,” “turn your body further,” and so on. By providing immediate feedback with each repetition, his players never wasted a repetition.

If the feedback of a teacher is not readily available, tools like mirrors and video cameras can be used to quickly see the result of an action. However, the power of these tools falls dramatically if they are not used frequently. The longer the time between the execution of the skill and the feedback, the less that the mistakes can be corrected because the body or mind will be distanced from what you did to create the performance initially. If you are going to video your practice sessions, you really need to be doing back to the tape after just a handful of repetitions of a single skill. Looking at a video of (e.g.) you and your partner dancing through an entire 2.5 minute routine may be useful in identifying ugly lines, but it is not nearly frequent enough feedback to constitute deliberate practice. Likewise, watching an event DVD of your Jack & Jill performance may remind you of specific skills to work on, but it will not be very useful in training yourself to actually perform those skills.

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