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Deliberate Practice [#3055]

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reply Deliberate Practice (2019-05-13 14:07) [#10218]

Hi Dieter,

I'm reading your new articles on deliberate practice with interest.

It seems important to me to draw a distinction between the acquisition and consolidation phases of learning new skills.

The intriguing thing that I noticed in my own experience is that deliberate practice does not (!) help me to pick up new data, which is a problem I suspect holds back many other peoples' progress at go. For example, memorising joseki does not make people stronger, on the whole, even though that is a kind of deliberate practice. In fact, in my case, I find it very difficult to memorise joseki, even with a lot of repetition.

However, if new material is exposed to me in an interesting way, I find I can remember it easily, without repetition or drilling. For instance, I have recently picked up a number of unfamiliar joseki from watching Nick Sibicky's lectures.

So, in the acquisition phase it seems more important to focus the learner's attention. They don't have to make any special effort. Assuming other people are like me, the learner should easily be able to remember things that have held their interest.

However, it must be the consolidation phase during which the deliberate, effortful practice will pay off. This is where drilling tsumego, and playing and reviewing games come into their own. You have opportunities to use what you know, and by using it, you make it truly your own. When I choose the wrong joseki or misremember one, then by studying the mistake afterwards I find I can learn about it more easily.

I contend that it's a mistake to try too hard to categorise things during the acquisition phase. I used to, for instance, make up lists of life and death scenarios and then go and forget them all. I think sorting it all out and making sense of it is what happens after you've already learned it, and not as a means of learning it in the first place. That, more than anything else, is what is wrong with excessively deliberate and excessively structured approaches to learning. Structure is what we impose on what we learn, not the way we learn.

Therefore, the new approach to learning go I am working on is simply to learn to be absorbed in it. My theory is that good players simply like the game very much, and enjoy reading and watching material connected with it (effortless acquisition); after that, they put it into practice for the sheer pleasure of finding out how it works in real games. Becoming stronger is a natural outcome of it.

I have read Gladwell's book on expertise and, while studying for my Japanese exams, some psychological papers on how memories are made and consolidated. It seems that fascination with a subject for its own sake, and not the desire to get good at it, is what motivates people to get through their 10,000 hours. Bill Gates liked computers intensely: it was relatively easy for him to spend hours encountering the knowledge and then to try it out for himself.

As you know, I have gone back into music. Despite starting over past the age of 40, I have been more successful in the past year than at any time in my life, gaining my first engagements as a soloist, among other things. What worked for me was doing the above, but musically. I simply pay close attention to anything relevant, and then try it out deliberately.

Therefore, in a nutshell: what really seems to work is to have fun exploring go, and to try out anything at all you recall when occasion permits. Deliberate practice is crucial, but it only works if you can first pick up things to practice, and that takes fascination and pleasure.


Dieter: ((no subject)) (2014-08-19 15:00) [#10219]

A short answer would be: fully agree. But I prefer long answers :) mostly because I don't know yet what I will write and so discover my thoughts during writing.

Indeed I am currently in a consolidation phase, not learning anything new, just deliberately applying concepts I fully understand but may have failed to integrate consistently into my games. Likewise, I'm solving easy tsumego at fairly high speed. There's nothing interesting about them but the fact that they help me evaluating a ko threat (oh, it's not a threat) in the 10s that remain on the clock.

The acquisition phase, as you point out, much less deliberate and more free, driven by desire to absorb the subject or be otherwise immersed in it. Indeed, it is not so much the desire to become good at something but rather the joy of performing the act itself, that propells one forward into the realm of mastering new techniques. For example, I have never really enjoyed playing the guitar, it was something I felt was necessary to perform and record the songs I wrote, an activity I loved in itself. I'm not a musician, or a performer, but I do like to write for its own sake. Be assured I will keep on writing.

Come to think of it, do I really love to play Go or is it something I want to become good at? It's not 100% clear. It's something to think about.

Thanks for the food.

reply Deliberate Practice (2014-08-20 12:30) [#10221]

Another point, which I did not make, is that you have to enjoy deliberate practice or, if not, have the discipline to do it anyway. I think this explains why one sometimes gets a temporary boost by reading a new book or learning a new opening - it's the new acquisition that forms the foundation of improvement, but unless you go back over the material (spaced repetition) or study its effects in one's games that boost may seem to be short-lived.

The thing has to be an end in itself, and not a means to one.


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