Deliberate Practice: A Pathway to Measurable Improvement

Deliberate Practice

Recently, ‘deliberate practice’ has become a buzz phrase in education. You may hear it and assume that it simply means to teach with specificity, but it’s actually much more in-depth than that.

Deliberate practice empowers teachers and school leaders by helping them grow their expertise in ways that weren’t evident to them before. Deliberate practice includes a structured, targeted effort to use planned activities, reflection, and collaboration to identify problems and seek solutions.


To get the most out of your deliberate practice, you first have to make a commitment to yourself. It will require a great deal of self-discipline, perseverance, and effort, but once deliberate practice becomes a habit, you’ll really start to see it pay off.

Deliberate practice also takes a lot of brainpower. Not only are you thinking about what you’re going to teach—you’re also practicing meta-cognition, or thinking about thinking. To help your brain develop more effective systems for organizing and accessing information, you must develop an awareness of your own thinking processes.

Getting Started

  • At the beginning of each school year, examine your classroom strategies and behaviors.
  • Set a series of very specific goals for the year.
  • Don’t lose sight of your goals when things get chaotic. Keep them in mind all the time.
  • Maintain an on-going self-assessment to identify things that take you off task.
  • Self-evaluation isn’t about your weaknesses! Take note of your many strengths as an educator, as well. Deliberate practice can shine a light on all the areas where you excel, and you can use them to your advantage.

Staying Focused

Regardless of your goals, if you keep trying different strategies, it’s a lot more difficult to find one that works and develop it based on feedback. Focused practice allows you to really hone in on a specific strategy. Repeat that strategy over and over, and as you discover ways to improve it (based on student assessments and surveys, observations, discussions with colleagues), incorporate them into your routine.

Likewise, as you encounter habits that hinder your effectiveness, toss them. Eventually, you’ll have that strategy so streamlined that practicing it will be a piece of cake.

According to Dr. Marzano, no matter how much professional development you receive, if you work alone without obtaining feedback, you won’t be able to make meaningful improvements. Your focused practice efforts yield much better results when you complement them with equally focused feedback.

Sources of Feedback

Your feedback can come from a variety of sources. If you’re using deliberate practice, you’re already self-evaluating, but a broader spectrum of feedback can give you a clearer picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Keeping a daily reflection log, or watching video of yourself teaching on your own, will help to a point, but you may not catch things that other people, including peers, coaches, mentors or even students might notice. Use your observers’ evaluations to your best advantage.

Measuring and Sharing Growth

You’ve put in the effort and sought out the feedback. Be sure to celebrate your growth! At the end of the year, you will have hit many milestones, but if you don’t monitor your progress, you might not be able to see just how well your diligence has paid off. Keep track of all your feedback, self-assessments and evidence of growth so that it’s all fleshed out in a concrete way.

Deliberate practice can empower teachers to take control over their professional growth and development, ultimately making them more effective in the classroom. With focused planning, preparation and reflection, any educator can more easily target specific goals and recognize successes as they occur.

Final Note

Don’t forget to share your growth with others. When one person gets better, the whole team can improve. Each time your deliberate practice uncovers an area where you need to improve, each time it highlights something that you’re already doing exceptionally, let other teachers know what you’ve learned.

In addition, share it here! We’d love to hear about your experience with deliberate practice. If you’d like more information, keep checking the website. We’ll be adding lots of deliberate practice resources, videos, links, and articles in the coming months. For a truly deep dive into deliberate practice, download our new policy paper here.



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