Improving Academic Performance

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Posted by Nina Parrish, Parrish Learning Zone on Mon, Jun 04, 2018 @ 09:00 AM

We all know that in order to acquire a new skill we have to practice. Anytime we want to learn something new in school, it requires practice as well. However, some methods of practice are far more effective than others. Often what separates great from average in school, sports, and other endeavors is not just natural talent but how they practice.

Both quantity and quality of practice are important.

It is apparent that people who love to practice often eventually outperform those who don’t. In general, the more you practice, the better the outcome will be. A student who studies every day for several months for the SAT is going to do better than a student who starts studying a few days before the test. However, there is a limit on how much practice a person can do, and you don’t want to practice so much that you start to feel burnt out.

Getting good at something also depends on the quality of practice that you do. If you practice without knowing your specific needs for improvement, you are often ingraining the same mistakes you always make. Conversely, great performers in all areas practice deliberately. This means that they are constantly analyzing their performance looking for areas that need improvement. Quality practice works to improve performance because it builds up myelin sheath which insulates the axons that carry information in your brain. This allows information to travel more efficiently. Quality practice should have several characteristics:

1. Target weaknesses at the edge of your ability.

Make sure that you are not just practicing skills that you already know. When you practice, it should be right at the cusp of what you are already able to do and what you are trying to learn but not currently able to do. Practice should feel challenging, and it is a good idea to practice mixed skills instead of always focusing on one skill at a time. Students who practice the current skill they are learning along with previous skills do better on future tests because they must pair each skill with the proper procedure.

Sometimes it is helpful to have the honest feedback of a coach in sports or a teacher or tutor in academics to help analyze your performance and target skills to work on. Deliberate practice means breaking down the big thing you are learning into its parts. So, if you are taking a test, do a practice test and see which skills you are struggling with the most. Focus on learning those skills before taking the whole test again.

2. Focus on the task at hand by minimizing distractions.

We are constantly distracted by our cellphones, Facebook, and other social media. Place all cell phones in a place where you cannot see or hear them while studying. If you need to use your device for studying, use an app like Offtime  that blocks other programs and alerts for the time period that you are working.

3. Divide time into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration.

Practice for short periods of time where you are completely focused, and then take a break. If you work for too long, you will start to feel fatigued and you won’t be able to retain as much. Practicing for long periods of time also leaves you much more prone to distractions.

4. Practice slowly and work up to the speed that you need.

Don’t worry about timing at first, worry about mastering the skill. Once you are able to perform the skill, then start practicing your timing.

5. Practice mentally between actual physical practice sessions.

When you are not practicing, think about what was challenging and mentally rehearse those skills. Chances are that the next time you attempt them, they will seem easier.

The old saying is that “practice makes perfect”.  However, it is not just quantity of practice that makes a difference. People who become successful at any skill focus on strategies to make sure that their time is filled with high-quality practice.

About the Author

Nina Parrish is a former special education teacher and a licensed school counselor. She is the owner of Parrish Learning Zone a K-12 tutoring company in Virginia. Her blog The Learning Zone publishes content on education and parenting topics.

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Tags: study skills, deliberate practice at school, deliberate practice, improving cognition, improving academic performance, tutoring skills, tutoring tips, improving grades

Focused Training: The Key to Building Academic Skills and Improving your IQ

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Wed, Jul 05, 2017 @ 10:43 AM

Over the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and a fair amount of writing on this blog, around what truly drives academic performance. One of my favorite (and most important) insights has been that IQ, or natural intelligence, is far less important than people assume it to be. This article considers that insight from a different angle, and introduces an interesting new book about how it may be possible to improve your IQ through targeted training.

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Tags: IQ, deliberate practice, Strategy Development, effort

An Introduction to Grit: A Key to Academic Performance

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 @ 10:00 AM


Over the past five years, I’ve done a fair amount of secondary research (reading articles, books, etc.) on academic performance. Two of the most interesting and actionable discoveries I’ve made are that A) a student’s mindset is far more important in explaining academic success than I would have imagined and B) a concept called Grit is what seems to power the performance of a student with the right mindset.

 

The “Growth Mindset” is a concept invented by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Standford Psychologist. Her research shows that individuals can generally be placed into one of two buckets: a) those that have a growth mindset and b) those that have a fixed mindset.

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Tags: growth mindset, deliberate practice, grit

Focus: The New Key to Academic and Professional Success

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Fri, Dec 02, 2016 @ 01:32 PM


I just finished listening to a great podcast episode from Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman’s Psychology Podcast (one of my favorite podcasts because it’s generally, entertaining, informative and practical as it relates to helping you better understand the world around you) about the concept of Deep Work.

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Tags: deliberate practice, focus, deep work

Keys to Success: Beyond Hard Work and Intelligence

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 @ 11:00 AM


If you ask a random collection of people what is needed to be successful in school, you’ll probably receive quite a few responses along the lines of “hard work” or “a high IQ.”

I would never suggest that one shouldn’t work hard, or shouldn’t always try to continually build their intelligence. But I think there’s mounting research and evidence that hard work and intelligence really aren’t the fundamental drivers of academic, professional, interpersonal/social, athletic, or artistic success.

Before introducing four more fundamental keys to success, let’s briefly discuss why hard work and intelligence don’t really lead to success, and might even lead to failure.

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Tags: intelligence, IQ, deliberate practice at school, deliberate practice, grit, hard work

How to Study More Effectively

Posted by mark sko on Wed, Jul 01, 2015 @ 09:30 AM

 Quality over quantity. It’s an often-used, and generally helpful, notion. However, when it comes to studying, two points need to be made:

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Tags: study habits, deliberate practice

Learning How to Learn: 3 Techniques to Improve Test Scores

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 03:49 PM

MyGuru is slowly undergoing a bit of a transition. We certainly want to continue to be known as the premier source for extremely accomplished tutors who deliver highly customized 1-1 in-person and online tutoring and test prep in Chicago and a steadily growing number of cities.

However, if you want to improve your performance in school, expert feedback and customized instruction from a private tutor doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of your plan. It is almost certainly a good idea, if you have the financial resources to pursue private tutoring. But, there are other tools, approaches, and strategies you can use to do better in school, and we want the MyGuru brand to be known for its ability to empower students to take control of their education, study more effectively, and develop strategies to meet their academic, professional, and personal goals. We want to deliver much more than the ability to connect with a private tutor.

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Tags: growth mindset, study habits, deliberate practice, strategic study plan

Study More Effectively Using Deliberate Practice - PART 2

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Fri, Jun 06, 2014 @ 02:15 PM

In a previous blog post on deliberate practice, we learned that it takes focus, motivation, feedback, and a desire to uncover the underlying elements of the big concepts.  More importantly, we learned that it is the way to build new skills, be they academic, athletic, musical, or anything else.   Let's now look at a few different examples of the concept in action, as well as explore what deliberate practice, in an academic context, involves in a bit more detail.

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Tags: how to study better, study help, deliberate practice, how to improve my grades, how to do better on standardized tests, study guides and tips, increase your academic performance, study the right way