PracticeMakesPerfectThere’s a difference between learning something and mastering something. That difference is practice. As a training professional, do you make sure your training programs include practice? Do you allow students to use their new-found learning within the context of work?

Why Practice Matters

Several books have come out in recent years that tout the effectiveness and need for practice. There’s Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, which mentions repeatedly the 10,000 hour rule. That’s the idea that success comes down to mastery of a skill. The gist is that Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become successful or a master of something.

Of course, 10,000 hours seems overwhelming in our fast-paced world, so a new book out from Josh Kaufman is The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast!

10,000 hours…20 hours, the point remains: Mastery takes time and practice. You can hear or talk about a skill during a training session, but until it’s applied in an actual environment, the learning may remain meaningless or lie dormant. Use of the learning is what makes the lesson hit home and become ingrained to behavior.

Types of Practice

There are various ways you can incorporate practice into your training sessions.

  1. You can use role-play activities. This is where students act out a pretend situation. For example, say you have customer service agents that need to practice a new sales script. One person can act as the customer and one can act as the agent and practice executing the new script. This can be a low-stress, low-cost way to practice a skill.
  2. You can use simulated environments. Medical students, doctors, surgeons, nurses and other health professionals may use dummies or gaming environments to practice surgery or health care techniques. Again, this is another low-stress way to practice a complex skill that could cause harm if practiced incorrectly in a real environment.
  3. You can practice in the actual work environment. This may not be an option if the skill is complex, technical, or where errors could be catastrophic. Perhaps students learned stress management techniques in class to help them deal with tension while on the job. Practicing this type of learning in the work environment would be practical and useful.
  4. You can combine practice techniques, especially for complex skills or skills used in stressful or high pressure situations. A combination of practice environments provides multiple opportunities for mastery.

Practice Uncovers Flaws

Another benefit of practice is that it uncovers flaws—either in the student’s grasp of the skill or in the teaching methods. If after training, the student cannot perform part or all of the skill in the practice session, you may need to dig further. Is the lack of performance due to a competence issue? Did the student lack prerequisite skills before trying to learn the new skill? Does the student require extra help in order to master the technique? If you answer these questions, then you can help the individual student one on one to acquire the skill. However, if all or most of the students fail in the practice environment, then you likely need to revisit the training session and see where the fault lies. Was the training too difficult for the knowledge level of the students? Was too much information given at one time for students to grasp?

How have you incorporated practice into your training programs? Do you notice a difference in performance after training is put into real-world practice? Please tell us in the comments. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Do you need help creating a practice environment for your training programs? Contact eParamus for help.
Call 919.882.2108.

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