An exploratory study of the utility for educational leaders of Anders K. Ericsson’s theory of expert performance within the domain of service to others

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Woodard, Randall
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The application of research-based methods of skill development has enabled people across a variety of different fields to reach extraordinary levels of achievement. Among the various fields where superior achievement might be attained, training individuals to recognize the dignity of others and strive for remarkable accomplishment in humanitarian service would be an area that would greatly affect our society and world. The purpose of this study was to test the applicability of K. Anders Ericsson’s theory of the attainment of expert performance through deliberate practice on those who demonstrate a superior level of achievement in terms of service to others. The project consisted of the study of two participants who were identified as having demonstrated outstanding achievement in serving others. These people participated in a series of retrospective interviews. The study also included data from retrospective interviews with a close friend or relative with long-term familiarity of the participant’s service to others, and with a person identified by the participant as a coach or mentor. Analysis of the interview data demonstrated a reasonable connection between the lives of the expert humanitarians and Ericsson’s framework. The data from both participants related well to Ericsson’s framework particularly in regards to incremental growth, use of strategies, and focused attention. Although both participants used mentors, one did not use the mentor in order to design tasks and set goals but rather to seek feedback and advice. There is reasonable cause to conclude that this model will serve as a valuable tool for educators. Additionally, five practical and one theoretical recommendations are offered to help administrators engage students in incremental growth, including a focus on teaching students to listen attentively to find their cause in life, the promotion of travel as a form of education, and assisting and encouraging students when they want to become active and involved.