But a good method for what? Certainly not for practicing the skill of mental arithmetic. Note, however, that if your friend asked you the same problem some time later, after you had forgotten the answer, then you would have needed to conduct the arithmetic steps again. It would have been slower and perhaps more error-prone than just remembering the solution. But, forgetting the solution would have forced you to actually go through the process of mental arithmetic again.
Blocked & Random Golf Practice
The differences between blocked and random golf practice share similarities to the mental arithmetic problem above. Golf is a problem-solving task in which the problem involves sending the ball from point A toward point B. As we described in our previous article, the solution to the problem involves a process that involves situational awareness, perception, movement planning, retrieving a motor program and schema from memory, all before the swing is executed. Blocked practice only requires this process when hitting the first ball (e.g., with the driver, or the first putted ball,) but not on each subsequent ball (or at least, not to the same degree.) The memory of the solution (the process) for the previous golf problem is usually adequate for the repetition, and so can be bypassed, and the golfer merely re-executes the swing, perhaps with some minor changes.
So, what is blocked practice good for? As with the math problem, it is good for repeating the “answer” again and again – which, with minor changes, can be done with increasing accuracy. But, that is not what a golfer needs to learn in order to perform on the golf course. Instead, the golfer needs to learn how to execute a single shot based on the performing the process. In other words, effective practice means practicing the entire process.
Random practice “works” because it requires that a new process be executed with each subsequent ball. On the range, a new club requires a new process. On the putting green, a new starting location requires a new process. Random practice “works” because it encourages the learner to practice the skills necessary to play on the course.
So, is random practice a magic formula for better learning? Not necessarily. We will explain why in Part 2
Demystifying Random Practice Part II | Motor Learning in Golf Instruction
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