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14 November 2019

Head's Message Friday 15 November 2019

Heads Message Friday 15 November 2019

Practice makes Perfect

It is a well-established fact that to develop expertise in a particular skill or technique one needs to practise. The ’10,000 hour rule’, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, highlighted that the accumulation of ten thousand hours of deliberate practice is required to achieve proficiency in a skill. At The Hampshire School Chelsea we value practice and strive for excellence but not necessarily perfection. Kaizen (改善) which the Japanese word for ‘improvement’ commonly referred in Japan as continuous improvement, sums up the pursuit of excellence quite well – rather than aiming for a fixed end-goal of perfection, we keep bettering what we are good at through practice and accept that challenge and mistakes are inevitable for improvement.

Last week in assembly I talked about the link between practice and progress. To illustrate this we watched a clip of a boy who is a world-record holding cup stacker. His skill is impressive and whilst one might question the time he spends on cup-stacking, there is no doubt that multiple repetitions is essential for developing such a specific and refined technique. Fortunately, there is scientific evidence of a positive impact of practice on the brain; as actions are repeated a sheath of myelin - a protective layer – forms around the axons - long extensions of neurons which carry nerve impulses between them. The Rubik’s Cube, which is currently a popular activity at break times at school, is a skill that requires practice for success, either through experiential knowledge or recall of the algorithms to solve the puzzle. Obviously, practice only leads to progress if errors are not repeated and the equation ‘practice + time = success’ overlooks the vital role of the educator. Teachers utilise effective methods of practice, repetition and reinforcement in the classroom that best support the process of learning. 

Exam success is high on our agenda, as our internal assessment week for Years 5-8 started last Monday, with some of our pupils  preparing for external entrance tests to future schools. Their revision programme has supported their preparation with practice central to that aim. For some, that might look like packing exam tasks and completion of exam papers into the week and, on the face of it, this might appear to be an effective strategy for as the title of this blog infers ‘practice makes perfect’. However, the reality is far more complex and for our Year 5 – Year 8 pupils, the mock exam practice week will sharpen up their exam technique and help them remember what they have learnt, but their ability to successfully apply their knowledge is achieved by breaking down tasks into smaller steps with targets linked to success criteria. It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive that we can get better at a complex learning by practising less complex tasks rather than papers, but evidence from sport, music and other educational pursuits demonstrate that practising sub-skills, such as prioritising tasks and writing under time pressure, is the path to improvement and success.

For practice to be effective, it needs to be reflective, meaningful and encourage in-depth understanding and mastery. Our revision week activities and homework assignments are designed to do just that through retrieval practice. The revision methods covered last week are not passive learning experiences. The quizzes, self and peer checking of answers, recall of facts, questioning, sequencing of events and modelling of strategies and methodology by teaching staff ensure that the pupils’  are working hard, exercising their brains and developing the connections for memory retention and recall.

As for a balanced approach to revision, continuing with clubs and activities and having fun whilst working hard in class and getting on with some revision, is so important. When pupils pick up their pens and begin writing, we hope that they will strive for excellence and not limit their progress by aiming for perfection.

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The Early Years

5 Wetherby Place
London, SW7 4NX

Tel: +44[0] 207 370 7081
Admissions: admissions@thehampshireschoolchelsea.co.uk
Enquiries: info@thehampshireschoolchelsea.co.uk

Pre-prep & Prep School

15 Manresa Road, Chelsea
London, SW3 6NB

Tel:+44[0] 207 352 7077
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Enquiries: info@thehampshireschoolchelsea.co.uk