Skills acquisition: How do we learn a new skills?

Research Briefing

Keywords: learning, skills acquisition, skills learning, learning and development, organisational learning

When we learn a new skill there is a considerable time in which we have to practise the new skill before that practice leads to a speed up of actions or application. In other words, as we are learning a new skill there is a period of time when we are not very effective or efficient. Then, over time, and with repeated application, we start to become more proficient and faster.

Mathematicians, psychologists and other scientist have for many years attempted to provide a mathematical formula for working out how the ‘law of practice’ works. Many theories have been put forward, such as any new skill takes 10,000 hours, and that increases in speed proficiency tend to be linear, getting better day after day, through to more recent attempts using power law formula. A power law formula suggests that, when we are practising a new skill, progress remains slow for a considerable amount of time and finally takes off when proficiency starts to develop rapidly.

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