This post is part of my series on deliberate practice (also called deep practice or purposeful practice), which I consider very important for understanding education and human capital accumulation more broadly.
In the last few years, I have often taught an introductory macroeconomics class. Both at the beginning of the semester, and whenever a student comes to me puzzled that they have done worse-than-expected on an exam, I recommend that they read the book The Talent Code. What I hope they get from the book is a sense of what it means to study in a deep way, rather than just “going over the material.” In case students don’t read the book, I have had teams of students from an honors section of the class give a presentation on the book to the entire class of about 250 students. I strongly recommend this
which they generously gave me permission to post. I had the audience vote on this and presentations about 5 other books. This was voted best of all 6 presentations. I agreed with the audience’s assessment. (The other books were
- Red Ink, by David Wessel,
- The White Man’s Burden: Why the Efforts of the West to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker (a book I dearly love)
- The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley, and
- Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard (which I include partly so I can critique its ideas as I do on my happiness sub-blog.)
Here is the essence of the 3 key slides in Hrishikesh’s and Madeline’s Powerpoint file:
Chunk it up
- Absorb—get involved with practice: imitation
- Break it into chunks—organize practice into smaller pieces
- Slow it down—take time to practice correctly
Learn to feel it
- Having someone inspire you to keep working can be effective
- However, your greatest coach is yourself
- Make yourself passionate about learning
- Find your own source of ignition
- Absorb—study deeply, not necessarily a lot
- Break it into chunks—all-nighters are less effect than spreading it out
- Slow it down—take time to make sure you are learning
- Repeat—practice makes perfect!
in the text above, I bolded a thought that got a particularly strong audience reaction: the greater effectiveness of spreading study out over time, instead of concentrating it in one all-nighter.