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The Focused Discomfort Of Learning

There's a long NYT article on developing child athletes from this weekend that describes the dull, uncomfortable process of learning that is familiar to many teachers and parents -- but maybe not so obvious to others who think of learning as "natural" or merely a function of time, or who have forgotten how hard, how frustrating it is to learn something new.

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The story opens with the writer's description of her daughter's first frustrating (and unsuccessful) efforts to hit a baseball -- "Toss after toss, she missed. Five tosses. Then 10." -- followed a day later by sudden and unexpected improvement. What happened, she finds, is the power of deliberate, concentrated time spent working on a specific technique with critical feedback from a teacher or coach. It's not the amount of time, but rather the focus of it -- what one researcher calls the "uncomfortable place" that, along with repetition, leads to mastery.
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