Why Do Some People Get More out of Their Practice Sessions Than Others Do?

In the Outliers, the author indicated that the research does not address why some people get more out of their practice sessions that others do.

One answer is that some people do not know or understand what practice is. Robert Short, an international court reporter, once said, “If I knew when I was playing basketball, what practice was, I would be a great basketball player.”  Instead, he is a great court reporter.  What he learned in court reporting school was how to practice.

The Distinction Between Practice and Evaluation

People often get practice confused with evaluation.  High-speed students often say, “I practice every day, and I still am not passing my tests.” After a discussion of what practice is, the students usually realize that what they have been doing is not practice. What they have been doing is evaluation. Great athletes do not go out every day and play the game. Playing the game is fun. Great athletes go out every day and subject themselves to grueling repetition.

What any great golfer does on a daily basis is to practice the same shot over and over and over. Dustin Huffer, CSR, explained how he would sometimes spend several hours pyramiding the same sentence outline over and over and over until he could write every word in it fluently. Vienna Nguyen, CSR, and Whitney Valadez, Official Court Reporters in the Los Angeles Courts, explained how they got through school quickly. They spent hours doing the same thing over and over and over.  Vienna Nguyen said she never listened to a recording.  She pyramided her homework packets over and over.  Kamryn Valadez, another alumna, explained that she pyramided for accuracy short paragraphs from drill books over and over.

Early on in school, these people understood the concept of practice. Therefore, they could get the most value from their practice.

It is more fun to write to the TV. It is more fun to run through a few drills here and there. It is more fun to take a test. It is more fun to listen to recordings to see if you can write it. However, are they really practicing, or are they evaluating?

Evaluation has its place, but only after practicing.  It is the same concept as students coming week after week to take tests but skipping the practice sessions.  What are they thinking?  What are they waiting for?  Answer:  The good test.

It is unfortunate that many students commit hours to evaluation and never get to doing any practice. And,  all of these methods may eventually get students to their goal of passing a speed, but you have to consider the time that they are spending using these inefficient methods of practice.  How many students finish your programs on time?  Why do some students take longer than others?  Could it be that they are not practicing as efficiently as they could be?




Remember, there are many ways to go from point A to point B, but the most efficient way is in a direct, consistent, and regular path.


Efficient Method

Inefficient Method

Both methods will get you there, but one method is more efficient than the others.