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The importance, and difficulty, of practice

You may have seen an interesting article in the New York Times last Saturday about the essential role of determination and discipline in acquiring talent. There’s been a lot written over the last few years about how talent is neither innate nor immutable; we can develop it through determination, grit, and practice.

Author Malcom Gladwell, who wrote about the role of practice in his bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, says “Talent is the desire to practice.” What Gladwell understands is the ability stick with a task until it is mastered is a talent in and of itself, a talent that allows people to acquire knowledge and skills — other talents.

In 1983, Howard Gardiner introduced us to his theory of multiple intelligences: visual-spatial, inter-personal, intra-personal, etc. In 1990, Daniel Goleman contributed with his ideas on Emotional Intelligence. Instead of only having an IQ (Intelligence Quotient), we also have an EQ (Emotional Quotient), which plays a key role in our ability navigate through life and accomplish tasks.

Both Gardiner’s and Goleman’s theories have become part of the popular lexicon, and they emerge yet again in the discussion on the desire to practice.

The “desire to practice” represents a certain type of intelligence, and like with all forms of intelligence, it can be honed and improved.

Instead of focusing primarily on the development of content knowledge — solving algebraic equations or conjugating Spanish verbs — educators, parents, and individuals can also focus on developing a different type of intelligence, the desire to practice, which is perseverance and knowing failure is part of success.

So that begs the question…how do people develop and hone a desire to practice?

Researchers are saying it takes a complicated mix of nature and nurture. And as this recent NY Times article highlights, a minority of people have either the genetics or the nurturing to put in the time and the effort to excel. And even those who have the desire to practice don’t have that desire across all domains: some athletes have the desire to practice their sports but lack motivation when it comes to academics.

At StudyBlue we understand that it takes time for students to change and adapt their study behavior.

That’s why we’ve developed a comprehensive experience enabling more efficient, and more effective studying.  A place where students can organize and access their study material, and simply break it into appropriate, actionable sets of information.  We make it easy for them to be more efficient, better organized.

But we’ve also taken care to provide students with a daily experience that motivates them to practice and to hone their practice.

Everything from course-specific Q&A with classmates on class walls, sophisticated analytics to help them know when they’ve mastered their content, and reminders about what to study and when, StudyBlue helps students practice.

We can’t teach or provide desire, but we can help students practice better, more efficiently, and more effectively.

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