Expert Models vs. Learning Models
By Michael Hebron - Copyright 2007 all rights reserved
Studies from the field of cognitive science have shown that any pressure “to get it right”
or “do it like an expert” creates stress related emotions, preventing individuals from
learning what can work best for them. Trying to copy an expert model can also produce
what could be called artificial intelligence or information void of personal insights from
one’s own curiosity and imagination.
Unfortunately, golf orientation often disorients and fragments progress when expert
models are being used. For example, golfers who sit down in front of a TV with an
instructor who is drawing lines over their swing motion while pointing out mistakes are
not experiencing a “pro-active” approach to learning. Also, golfers often have their
swing motion being shown on one side of a TV screen, as it’s being compared to some
experts’ swing motion on the other side. Because of what cognitive scientists now know
about how the brain encodes long-term learning, these are two examples of how expert
models can create stress related emotions that fragment learning. Learning
environments and learning opportunities must be stress free to be effective. Studies
show following directions causes stress.
Learning models are designed to be general in nature, offering “just in the ball park
descriptions” of events. Expert models are exact, and are normally being used for
trying to fix poor outcomes. On the other hand learning models are not trying to fix
poor habits, they are offering a “pro-active” learning experience that helps individuals
invent and find their own best way, while using a general non-specific concept. Keep in
mind information that is geared for helping someone is not as valuable as information
that’s geared for helping someone to help him or herself. When it comes to long term
learning, sound studies and respected research have revealed trying to fix a poor habit
is less effective than focusing on a positive image of “what to do”. Studies show
attempts to fix do not lead to learning that lasts, but focusing on “what to do” does.
Learning models promote active learning or interacting with ever-changing
environments, an interest in problem-solving and personal insights. On the other hand,
expert models promote passive learning, or following directions, memorization and
superficial non-personal decoding.
Golf is a game of adjustments and recovery, while using reasoning and deductions
skills. Learning models are variable models that can birth the kind of flexible knowledge
and portable skills needed for learning to make adjustments in the ever-changing
environments that playing golf presents. Learning models also give individuals the
opportunity to make personal choices; the most empowering opportunity individuals can
Having played basketball in college, I’ve played with more than a few All-Americans and
NBA players, and none of us tried to copy an expert model to learn the skills of
shooting, dribbling, passing, or running. Everyone was aware that the basketball had
to go up, because the net was up (core knowledge). We focused on “what to do,” not
how to do it. Over time, any personal “how to” details of these skills just filled in through
the trial and feedback of self-discovery learning. In a learning-developing environment
there is no failure, only feedback, to be used as reference points in the future. These
learning environments offer the opportunity to “mimic,” they are not asking individuals
to produce exact copies.
Golfers should be using a learning model that’s based on the basic core knowledge
that a golf club has been designed to have its shaft swinging through impact before its
club head, and while the shaft is swinging on a path parallel to the angle it occupied at
address (more or less 45), letting any personal details for accomplishing these events
just fill in. I have found that golfers who focus on a very general concept of “what to do”
with the golf clubs’ shaft, head, and face, make progress faster, than golfers who are
trying to imitate the details of what any expert model is doing.
Note: The rules for applying force to a golf ball are for the golf club. How a club shaft,
head, and face should be aligned through impact depends on the shot a golfer wants to
play (high, low, left, right), and not on any expert swing model. The environment, or
said another way, the shot we are about to play reveals the most efficient swing model
we can use. Perhaps by focusing on what could be called “The Golf Club Law’s”,
instead of “The Ball Flight Laws”, golfers would make more progress.