The ups and downs of learning

The ups and downs of learning


I wrote
last week CLICK HERE about how learning
sometimes has a little delay whilst the neurons in your brain are strengthening
and being myelinated over time. This article continues on from that, and
introduces the up and down nature of learning.
When you
are learning something new, often you can progress quite nicely during the
session. This is especially true for beginners with no prior experience. They
can start off the first five minutes of their golf career not getting a single
ball airborne. But by the time they finish the hour, a good 70% are flying
nicely through the air.
But what
happens next day? Normally, the player turns up to the practice tee with the
same expectations as the end of the last session. They think that they are
going to be able to get 70% (or more) of the balls airborne from the get-go; but
it doesn’t work like that. During the warm up, they rush through it to get to
the ‘good stuff’, but in an attempt to do so they get frustrated that the balls aren’t flying like they did last time.
If the person applied patience here,
they would soon warm up their skills/co-ordination or body and would break
through this short period. This is because learning often looks more like this;
In this graph, the player started out with very low performance, but increased it by the
end of the session. But between session 1 and 2, some of the learning was lost/or the player
is not as warmed up at this point. They are still better than the day before, and have potential
to push the boundaries further today, as long as they practice with patience
and realistic expectations during the initial stages of the session.
In between
the end of session one and start of session 2, there have been lots of changes
in the brain giving you POTENTIALLY better performance this session. However,
due to the fact there are other factors determining performance (like having
your body fully warmed up), this potential is not yet realized.
A beginner,
not versed in the act of learning, may start session 2 with such a high
expectation level that they start to become frustrated that they can’t do what
they did yesterday. Through their frustration, they then start trying different
things/getting angry with themselves and the whole session is lost, or even a
backwards step as they are chasing the secret. Their
graph would look much more like this;
In this graph we see the player starts out a little lower than the end of the
previous day. Through high expectations, they then get frustrated and spoil
their chances of doing any learning/boundary pushing that day.
the catastrophe theory of learning

Take home notes

So you have
to remember, during the transition between the end of session one and the start
of the new session, expect a little performance drop. Stay patient during this,
allow your body (and your brain) to fully warm up, before you start pushing the
boundaries further.
Learning is not always linear – it often has more peaks and troughs. Just like learning a new word in a foreign language; the first time you learn it, you think that you ‘have it’. But next day you may have forgotten it again. But each subsequent time you re-learn it, you learn it a little better – as long as you don’t get stressed and upset racking your brains to find the word.
Remember – you only have potential to do better today than yesterday. Don’t sabotage your efforts with overly high expectations early on.

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