In a recent GoReact webinar, Dr. Adam Jones, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Texas Woman’s University, explained the benefits of deliberate practice for psychology education.
“Think of it as working out at the gym,” said Dr. Jones. “One study … found that [therapists] who regularly engaged in deliberate practice activities had significantly better outcomes than those who didn’t.”
Using deliberate practice as part of an instructional scaffolding strategy, Dr. Jones helps graduate students at TWU become more effective therapists. Keep reading to learn how it works and how you can use it to coach students as they refine their skills.
According to “The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance,” deliberate practice is “the intentional repeated execution, usually under the instruction of a coach, of skills directly relevant to improving the performance in question.”
Co-authored by K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist known as the expert on expertise, The Handbook explores factors that separate top, average, and low performers in a variety of fields. In their research, Ericsson and his colleagues found the key difference for top performers was deliberate practice.
Breaking down the application of deliberate practice in their book, “Better Results: Using Deliberate Practice to Improve Therapeutic Effectiveness,” Dr. Scott Miller and colleagues from the International Center for Clinical Excellence identified the four elements required for deliberate practice. As shown in the chart below, they include: 1. individualized learning objectives, 2. a coach, 3. feedback, and 4. successive refinement.
Dr. Jones said psychotherapy programs are beginning to incorporate deliberate practice into training, but he emphasized that it isn’t the same as other types of practice such as purposeful practice or naive practice.
In purposeful practice, students focus on a specific skill or therapeutic concept until they’re comfortable with the concept. In naive practice, they simply assume the more they do something, the better they’ll get, even though research shows most therapists have worse outcomes later in their career because experience makes them overconfident.
He said deliberate practice is more about identifying “skills just outside of the therapist’s current ability … where we can challenge [them] to reach just a little bit further.” He outlined three steps to help frame deliberate practice for psychology education:
Feedback is crucial for all learners, but Dr. Jones emphasized its importance for graduate therapists because it’s “most likely the only time when [they’ll] be getting very direct feedback on their work.”
With that in mind, Dr. Jones has changed how he teaches students in his master’s and doctoral programs. Using deliberate practice, which is heavily focused on coaching and feedback, he helps “give them a trajectory of success that will carry them through their career, helping them recognize what their work is, how effective they are, and ways that they can continue to build a system for improving those outcomes.”
To coach and give students feedback on their practice and progress—and to help them evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses—Dr. Jones uses GoReact video assessment software. GoReact supports deliberate practice through:
To learn more from Dr. Jones about the benefits of deliberate practice for psychology education, watch the complete webinar.