Discomfort as a sign that you are learning
We were surprised at what we foundWe were quite surprised when saw the results. The top 3 was very clear: practicing with the trainers, practicing with other participants, and practicing with the live client. What struck us was how they ended up head and shoulders above all other items. Perhaps even more surprising (and somewhat disappointing, I must admit) was the pitiful position of our theoretical PowerPoint presentations: at the very bottom of the list. Up til then we had always started our courses with a presentation of half an hour (sometimes it took a bit longer). Now and then, we noticed some participants losing their attention but we carried on because, hey, those participants needed to get some good background information, didn't they?
Good practice is uncomfortableAfter this evaluation we have drastically changed our approach and priorities in our courses. We put much more emphasis on practicing and we don't do any presentations anymore. The way we practice has also changed and become more specific. We use deliberate practice (read here how that works). This way of practicing is not too comfortable because the focus is constantly on what you find hard to do. During practice you are constantly confronted with those parts of your performance which are not yet effective. Also, while practicing you get specific and detailed feedback. You keep practicing those hard parts over and over until they get better and better.
Some time ago, a participant who had just finished a course told us that, at first, he had found deliberate practice quire frustrating. He was surprised by this way of practicing and said it was quite different from what he had expected. At the same time, he noticed that it did work. He noticed that he had actually improved after 20 minutes of deliberate practice. This made him curious and he started reading more about deliberate practice. Gradually, he had become more and more motivated for deliberate practice. On the last day of the course he was very motivated.
While practicing together I saw signs of fruastration when things did not go right -which is normal during deliberate practice- but I also saw an eager attitude. He even smiled sometimes and said things like: "Okay, I'll just try once more." He kept trying again and again and he kept improving bit by bit. After about 15 minutes he had become clearly more competent at what he had been practicing.