Practicing a lot doesn’t necessarily make you better at learning a new skill. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that one key to mastering a skill quickly is to slightly change how you practice the skill.
Photo by Photo4jenifer.
The researchers had 86 volunteers learn a computer-based motor skill in a 45-minute session. One group repeated the exact same training for a second session, while another group received a slightly modified second session. A third group, the control, didn’t get any second session. The next day, all three groups were asked to repeat the original task.
[Dr. Pablo A. Celnik, the senior study author] says the gains in performance, such as a speedier and more accurate completion of the task, nearly doubled among those in the second group, who were given the altered second session, compared to those in the first group, who repeated the same task.
Highest gains were seen among those subjects who were able to quickly adapt to the change in conditions. Participants in the third group, who skipped the second session, performed approximately 25 per cent worse than those in the first group.
Celnik says the alterations in training have to be small, something akin to slightly adjusting the size or weight of a baseball bat, tennis racket or soccer ball in between practice sessions.
While this applies particularly to motor skill development — playing a musical instrument or sports, for example — previous research also suggests that deliberate practice is better than repetitive practice. So tweak your way to skill mastery.
Want to Lean a New Skill? Faster? Change Up Your Practice Sessions [John Hopkins Medicine]