Whenever students hear the word “practice”, they often show signs of agony. Againnnnn! As they are at the stage of processing various new knowledge, practice is crucial to form a strong foundation in the arena. Be it academically wise or musically wise, practice will strengthen muscle memory, enabling students to remember the information for a longer period of time.

There are two types of people – either believing in “practice makes perfect” or “practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”. The former quote is something that everyone has heard it at least once in their lifetime. Do you know that this quote can be dated all the way back to the 16th century! (Manser, 2007, p.226) The latter quote is often credited to Vince Lombardi, mostly known for his contribution to American football as well as his determination to succeed. The quotes that he said during his time as football coach had since been widely used. Regardless which type of person you are, it is evident that practice is indispensable.

Some might argue that they are able to remember everything that was taught to them, and thus not needing practice. However, from a psychological point of view, it is possible for the student to remember what was taught to them in a short frame of time as it will be stored in their short-term memory. As new information begins to pour in, due to recency effect, the previous information might be forgotten. It is only through practicing (rehearsal), that enables the information to be transferred to their long-term memory. In addition, if the information is not constantly retrieved and rehearsed, this information will start to decay and be forgotten.

Figure 1: 2 Atkinson and Shiffrin memory model. (From Atkinson, R. C. and Shiffrin, R. M. The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 2, 89-195, 1968

Conceptual theory and practical is two very different identity. Being able to grasp conceptual theory does not necessarily translated into an excellent execution in practical. For example, watching MasterChef and learning the various techniques used in cooking – how to sear a steak perfectly. Without practice, it is impossible to guarantee that the quality of steak cooked will constantly be at the same standard. Minute differences such as the pan used (how well it can distribute heat evenly), the strength of flame (medium fire, medium-high, medium-low, etc.), or even the second to flip the steak (retaining the “juice”, giving it the “sear”) will affect the outcome and taste of the steak. It is through cooking steaks after steaks after steaks and paying attention to how the differences in the variables affect the outcome, will you then be able to cook a constant standard of steak.

Practice is basically doing something repeatedly to get a better control and understanding. Regardless from the point of psychology or real life examples, it is evident that practicing is an important factor that cannot be separated from success.

  1. Manser, M.H. (2007) The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing.
  2. Long, J. (2016, April 27) The Importance of Practice – And our Reluctance to do it. [Blog Post]. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.harvardbusiness.org/the-importance-of-practice-and-our-reluctance-to-do-it/
  3. Memory Retention and Recall Process – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Atkinson-and-Shiffrin-memory-model-From-Atkinson-R-C-and-Shiffrin-R-M-The_fig1_299456892 [accessed 30 Mar, 2021]
  4. Thorn, A., Page, M. (2008, August 15) Interactions Between Short-Term and Long-Term Memory in the Verbal Domain. Psychology Press.