Motor Learning Concepts - Optimizing Feedback Pt. 3

Dr. Timothy D. Lee
  • Author: Dr. Timothy D. Lee
  • Motor Learning Expert
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Back in the day when I first started writing about motor learning, there was a dictionary on my bookshelf that I would consult sometimes. It would be used to look up how to spell an uncommon word or to check on its definition. I didn’t need to use it all the time, of course, and for that reason it spent most of its time on the bookshelf because I was usually pretty confident that I had used or spelled the word correctly. But it came in handy on those occasions when I was unsure of myself. The dictionary provided the gold standard augmented information to check my “internal dictionary.”

An important goal of practice should be to build the accuracy and reliability of the golfer’s “internal dictionary.” As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, inherent feedback will always be available to the golfer on the course; augmented feedback will not. In Part 2, we discussed some research showing that making augmented feedback too readily available will serve to block or prevent learners from developing the ability to use their inherent feedback sources to detect errors and make corrections. A reliance on augmented feedback to provide the information that golfers need can be a liability on the course when it is no longer available.

This dictionary analogy is a good way to conceptualize how and when to provide augmented feedback to golfers. Consider this: instead of having augmented sources of information as an omnipresent or indispensable component of the practice environment, why not treat them like a dictionary?  In this case, augmented feedback sources would reside on a “bookshelf” as a gold standard source of knowledge, ready to help supplement the golfers understanding of their own inherent feedback when it lacks precision or clarity.

I see three benefits in treating sources of feedback like a dictionary: 1) there will be a reduced dependency on augmented feedback during practice, which will instead make practice more “game-like,” (always a good thing,) 2) encouraging golfers to discover how to detect errors and make corrections on their own makes practice more effortful, which is beneficial to the learner (and which we have emphasized several times in previous articles,) and 3) limiting the use of augmented feedback sources to situations when it is needed the most will actually make the largest impact of that augmented feedback on learning how to use your inherent feedback sources to do the same thing. My chances of spelling or using the word next time are better when I’ve consulted the dictionary only on a “need to” basis.

The next article will be devoted to specifically to training aids. What do you think we will have to say about them?


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