- Deliberate play and practice research has helped us to understand exactly what quality is
- Quality experiences are most beneficial because kids are paying close attention and are emotionally invested
We have all heard the saying “its quality not quantity” when it comes to being good at something. The saying should go “it’s quantity of quality”. Research has clearly shown quantity is critical to developing expert skills – Why play and practise volume is important? – And it has also shown why quality is so critical. By reading below, you will find out the why’s and how’s of quality play and practice on kids skill development.
Deliberate practice research
Psychologists researching the development of expertise discovered that the learning experiences of experts all had certain things in common. There was feedback on results, they were mentally demanding, they were repeated over and over and they were designed specifically for performance improvement. If learning experiences have these qualities, they have become known as deliberate practice.
Deliberate play research
The groundbreaking research on deliberate practice that still stands relevant today was done mostly back in the 1970’s. In relation to sport, more recent research on skill acquisition has allowed us to further refine our understanding of quality learning experiences. It was discovered that many experts in skill based sports when they were young had participated in fun games that encouraged improvisation and role-playing rather than just deliberate practice. These games are known as Deliberate Play and developed the perceptual and adaptability skills of experts at a young age.
What determines quality?
Quality play and practice exhibit the qualities outlined by above. Quality is also determined by the age of the individual. Deliberate play is more important with young kids and older athletes benefit more from deliberate practice. In general terms, a big effort to compete, to concentrate and to get better during activities that are challenging are signs of quality. But why exactly is quality so important?
Paying close attention
Learning or improving skill performance comes about through the brain adapting to experiences. The brain becomes more efficient at perceiving and effecting accurate movement responses. Research has shown that when we pay close attention to aspects of our experience, we become most open to brain adaptations taking place. If we fail to pay close attention, our brain becomes less open to learning. When we are challenged or have new experiences we have a natural inclination to pay closer attention. This should give you even more of an idea about what quality play and practice is.
Being able to pay close attention or concentrate is a skill in itself and it can be developed through mindfulness experiences. You can find lots of helpful information and techniques to develop mindfulness on www.skillforkids.com
When we have a moderate amount of emotion our brain determines the experience as important as a sign that it should be remembered. A moderate amount of emotion includes when we are goal oriented or face a new challenge. Enjoyment is another time of moderate emotion when our brain is open to positive adaptations. So if kids are invested emotionally in what they are doing, they will benefit more from the experience in terms of their long term skill development.
As a physical educator one of your major goals in guiding skill development is to facilitate quality play and practice experiences. But this is certainly not straight forward and there is much that needs to be considered – Facilitating quality play and practice experiences.