Saturday, May 31, 2014

Accelerating the Learning Curve - Part One: Reflection and Performance

Thanks to a sharp portfolio manager for pointing out this recent study on the role of reflection in learning.  The implications for the training of traders are significant.

The authors find that, "the automatic, unconscious process of learning by 'doing' becomes more effective if deliberately coupled with the controlled, conscious attempt at learning by 'thinking'" (p. 6).  "In particular," they note, "we find that individuals perform significantly better on subsequent tasks when they think about what they learned from the task they completed." (p. 5).

Reflecting on one's learning--a staple of those who make rigorous use of trading journals--appears to help abstract and cement lessons derived from practice.  Putting hours in front of a screen observing and trading will not necessarily generate maximum and learning and expertise unless there is also a processing of that experience.  It is that processing that makes sense of the experience and frames future experience.  

This helps to explain why mentorship and coaching are so important to learning in performance fields.  There is the playing of the game, but there is also the watching of the game film after the game--and the use of game film observations to guide the next week's practice.  Game film is the catalyst for turning doing into thinking and ultimately learning.

There is another important takeaway from the authors' research, however.  Reflection provides emotional as well as cognitive benefits.  Their study found that reflection resulted in higher levels of self-efficacy.  When people reflect on their performance, they feel more capable of achieving and reaching goals.  It is as if cognitive mastery imparts a personal sense of mastery.

This invites an interesting hypothesis:  Effective reflection on successful experience might be particularly effective by keeping self-efficacy high and sustaining the flow state in which performers stay immersed in their craft.  Such a hypothesis supports a solution-focused approach to coaching and mentorship. 

Can traders guide their processes of reflection in the service of self-coaching?  That will be the topic of my next post in this series.

Further Reading:  Making Peak Performance a Lifestyle