Practice smarter, not harder, to master new skills


When dreaming up new training methods for your veterinary team members, include a diverse set of activities and drills for maximum effectiveness.

Perhaps you have new practice management software that team members need to learn. Or maybe you’d just like to institute new cleaning procedures to eliminate odors in your clinic. Whatever the skill, you’ll train team members more effectively by using a diverse set of drills and practice exercises.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California-Los Angeles studied 59 volunteers who were tasked with performing a challenging arm movement. Half the participants practiced the movement alone, while the other half added related tasks in a variable practice structure.

The latter group showed better retention of the skill, since the variable practice structure engaged a part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex—associated with higher-level planning. Meanwhile, participants who practiced just the arm movement struggled to retain the skill, since the movement engaged the primary motor cortex, an area of the brain associated with simple motor learning.

Keep these results in mind next time you develop training exercises for your team members. The old adage “Practice makes perfect” might not be enough anymore—at least not if it’s the wrong kind of practice.

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