No. 1 • DELIBERATE PRACTICE
by Shanth Enjeti
“Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her current abilities... Further thus it demands near-maximal effort, which is generally not enjoyable.”
- ANDERS ERICSSON
Reasearch psychologist Anders Ericsson's groundbreaking work on the science of expertise was the subject of a recent podcast by Freakonomics Radio conducted by Stephen J. Dubner. The insightful program was something I felt compelled to share with my Montserrat Illustration students who, like most young artists, are occupied with a question that has been on the mind of visual arts students for centuries: 'How do I get good?'
My answer to this question is very much in line with the research of Anders Ericsson and what he calls "deliberate practice."
Ericsson: We think of deliberate practice requiring a teacher that actually has had experience of how to help individuals reach very high levels of performance.
Dubner: I want to go through one by one the components of deliberate practice and have you explain a little bit more if necessary, or acknowledge why they are important. So you write that "deliberate practice develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques have been established."
Ericsson: And I think that's key.
It is worth listening to the podcast to hear the results of psychologist Susanne Bargmann, who decided to test the principles of deliberate practice by revisiting her childhood dream of being a professional singer. At the age of 42, Bargmann applied Anders Ericsson's research in order to improve her singing abilities and the results (which you may listen to in the podcast) speak for themselves.
Below are some examples of work demonstrating the fruits of deliberate practice created by Montserrat Illustration students. It is important to appreciate that these students did not start at the level of ability presented below in the media or subject they are illustrating in their work. The work is the result of an approach to deliberate practice that we offer and value at Montserrat. This approach requires a collaboration between Montserrat's Illustration faculty and students, the guiding of students through the use of media in class, demonstrations by our professors/instructors, as well as personal attention to each and every student's skill development.
As Anders Ericsson says, "Purposeful practice is when you actually pick a target — something that you want to improve — and you find a training activity that would allow you to actually improve that particular aspect." Ericsson is careful to differentiate training activities from playing. He says, "Because when you’re playing, there’s really no target where you’re actually trying to change something specifically and where you have the opportunity of repeating it and actually refine it so you can assure that you will improve that particular aspect."
Erika Wagner '18
Kristin Leigh Porcello '17
Veron Ames '18