Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10,000 Hours to Success

Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author and staff writer for the New Yorker, has a magic number for success. In his latest book, Outliers: The Story of SuccessOutliers,  Gladwell makes a compelling case for explaining success. Turns out factors such as innate ability do not factor into success as much as we might think. Turns out practice.... 10,000 hours of practice to be exact translates into success.

From Bill Gates to Mozart to the Beatles and grandmaster chess champions, Gladwell uses the 10,000-Hour Rule again and again to explain their success. It's not that innate ability isn't a factor, it just isn't a determining factor. For a sneak peek at how Gladwell unravels his theory read the excerpt below:

A research study comparing amateur and professional pianist "couldn't find any naturals that float to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor did they find any grinds, people who worked harder than everyone else, but just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't just work harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder." (p. 30).

 My question is do we in schools reward or give preference to the student that "gets it" quickly or do we appreciate the student that works hard, very hard to master a task? Before you answer that question consider current grading practices and how we still tend to base grades on averages. Consider teacher comments about expectations of students? Do we even give students multiple opportunities to practice before we penalize them.... e.g.You can take a retest but can't score any higher than a 70% on the test. Clearly I am not feeling generous on this issue, but I truly want to.... help me identify ways we as schools have typical practices which emphasize work ethic over background knowledge.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Little, Brown, and Company.

1 comment:

kemeigh said...

Wow! Great thoughts in this one! It really seems alot more "fair" if we do allow kids to practice, practice and practice before penalizing them. The current system certainly does not encourage "do over." It encourages "Get it right the first time... or too bad." I wonder if we began encouraging our students to practice and practice and practice then they would be better employees and citizens. They would recognize that they don't have to be perfect.... just able to review, revise, adjust and try again.