A Topic Worthy of Attention
By Michael Hebron PGA Master Professional, CI
It’s been said that there is no “zeal” like the “zeal” of a person who has
been converted. With no apologies I now realize that learning environments
have more influence over the pace of progress than teaching
environments. Today there is an evolution of new insights from science
about how people learn that we all should be very enthusiastic about. When
new knowledge is uncovered, even if unsettles some long-term beliefs,
surely it’s preferred over poor concepts. So you can say I have been
converted. I do not put forward the following ideas and information to cause
any discomfort with different points of view. They are given to promote
rethinking some current beliefs about teaching and learning. Fundamental
issues about learning, teaching and skill development are being reviewed
by leading neuroscientists and behavioral research revealing some highly
fascinating things about learning that last, (not just short term results).
THE JOY OF LEARNING ANYTHING (EVEN GOLF)
I have been doing what is traditionally referred to as “teaching” since 1966,
a term I became uncomfortable with early in the 1990’s. This was when my
focus changed from doing the best I could to teach people, to doing what I
could to help people LEARN. In my mind helping people learn became very
different than trying to teach someone. The scientists who are researching
how people learn point out that mankind’s ability to learn is a natural act or
a predestined gift of evaluation. We do not have to try to learn, we just can
and do! My goal is to help people self-develop and expand their learning
potential, now that I see myself more as a LEARNEST than a teacher.
When the student isn’t getting it, the educator needs more education, not
Without the many gifts that evolutions natural selection passed on to man,
including our ability to learn, man/woman would not have survived. Man is
designed by nature for learning and success, not failure. Of all the joys that
man can experience, the joys of learning last longest. People in their 90’still
do and know things they learned during the first years of their lives.
Learning increases the shelf life of information when gained on an
autobiographical journey of self-development. Note the ultimate oxymoron:
Learning is at the core of living one’s life and living ones life is at the core
Human beings are designed to learn and self develop by doing, observing,
and adjusting. (The three “ings of learning). No child asks for directions it’s
always “me do, me do”. Man’s mind is on fire to learn (not be taught). It’s
more than interesting that he word “teach” is not used in Webster’s
definitions of learning or education. It’s also interesting that in ancient
Egypt, the birthplace of formal education, that the words for punishment
and teaching had the same derivation. When someone tries to make you
learn it can be punishment. A father trying to make his son learn to play
ball, or a schoolteacher trying to make students learn are examples of
While I am not a scientist from the academic community, how people learn
has been a focus of mine since the early 1990’s. One day I asked myself,
"How could any approach to education expected to be efficient without
taking the nature of learning into consideration first?" Perhaps my
philosophy about helping people learn could be described by saying that I
have stopped trying to change poor results and now look for ways to
maximize a students ability to learn. My goal is to have a positive influence
on the pace of progress. A good education is not geared to changing poor
grades or poor habits; it’s designed to help change misconceptions and
The joy of learning anything, even golf does not have to be as difficult as
some approaches to learning seem to make it. Some approaches to
learning are similar to a performer who is only playing to the “cheap” seats
(lower brain) and in the process is by passing the higher cortex of the brain,
where imagination and curiosity are solving the problems to be solved. The
ultimate higher law; “when you appeal to the highest level of thinking, you
get the highest level of performance”, Jack Stack (author of the Great
Game of Business).
Because of recent research we now know that there are some keys to
learning that have been overlooked in the past. These keys can make our
efforts to learn more efficient. There also are some myths about learning
and teaching that fragment progress. Unfortunately when some people feel
they are not making progress they often assume they lack information or
have some physical shortcoming and rarely ask, “Is there a more efficient
way to go about learning?” Today we can say yes to this question and point
out that approaches to learning based on self-development can be more
efficient than following someone else’s “how to” directions. In some teaching
environments students are learning “I can’t read”, “I can’t do math”, “I can’t
putt”, as they try to follow directions. The means to education is not found
in information given, it’s found in knowledge gained through one’s own
interactions with our surroundings. Helping someone learn is v very
different than giving “how to” directions.
Research is weaving a list of ideas and themes cross-fertilizing information
that can change the current status of students who are not making
progress. Direct long-term changes in ones intellectual blueprint is the goal.
We must recognize that learning is not a single thing; it’s more like a broad
based family activity where total brain involvement allows learning to take
Studies show that the more workable someone’s approach to learning
becomes, the more acceptable their living conditions, level of income, state
of health and motor skills become. Both logic and science would say that
our level of education is “the core of cores”, when it comes to making
progress. The splendor of our natural potential for learning can become a
vanishing voice when the opportunity to learn is being sabotaged in
environments that do not promote self-development. At mankind’s
conception there is one cell that develops into two cells, these two cells
develop into four, four cells develop into eight, and so on throughout a
mother’s pregnancy. It’s natures plan for man to self develop and construct
his own “being” and also his own knowledge base by doing, observing the
outcome of his actions, then adjusting as we see fit. On the other hand
consumption and following are lower brain activities, void of imagination,
curiosity and the problem solving skills located in the higher cortex of our
brain, where learning takes hold. Our natural ability to learn is often
fragmented by attempts to teach. Environments conducive to learning are
voyages of discovery and students should look for a guide, not a teacher.
Effective managers in the business world and effective guides in school
settings build confidence in other people, they don’t give the impression
that they have all the answers. Effective educators don’t come up with
solutions for students; they help people find the answers for themselves.
Learning is Learning
Reading this demonstrates some level of curiosity. Is the interest in learning
anything or in learning golf? When children are not making progress in
school and when mom and dad’s golf games are not improving at
acceptable rates, learning research would point to parallel causes. Studies
into the nature of learning show that for the brain, learning is learning.
Hopefully this insight will be recognized and appreciated as one reads on.
Dr. H. L. Kalawan of University of Chicago said, “Learning to strike a ball is
no different neurologically for our brain than learning to write, speak or play
the violin. The real key to learning is how we are allowed to interact with our
environment.” That last sentence is at the foundation of progress and
learning that haste. A master of anything was first a master learner. It’s my
guess that what many people believe about teaching and learning has
slowed down progress for many students.
I am not the first to make the observation that learning environments are
different then teaching environments. Learning environments are playful in
their approach to progress. Man plays to learn; he does not learn to play.
(We play with computers; play with recipes, etc. to learn). In his video, “The
Intelligence of Play,” Chuck Hogan points out how the value of play is often
overlooked. True Play has no directions, but always gets to its destination.
True Play doesn’t try to be exact but often is. True Play doesn’t try to
memorize, but has a wonderful long-term memory. True Play has many AH!
moments that last forever. True Play has no failure, only feedback that is
never wrong. On the other hand in some teaching environments people are
always fixing and correcting, rarely arriving at their goal. Learning is an
intellectual debt charge that broadens possibilities by going back to square
one – “the acts of self development.” In workable learning environments a
robust exchange of ideas between students and instructors is encouraged
and valued, as a students natural ability to learn is guided in the direction
of progress. Golf and progress with anything are games to be played not a
subject to be taught. Teaching environments have “outcome goals” that are
not as valuable as learning goals founded on the liquid architecture of a
journey of self-discovery and self-development.
For the most part learning that lasts happens in environments that use
experimentation that produce outcomes that are both workable and
unworkable. In learning environments there is no failure, only useable
feedback, where every outcome (both workable and unworkable) are
observed and recognized as valuable. Normally teaching environments are
a “reaction” to poor habits and poor outcomes. On the other hand learning
environments are “proactive” and positive in their approach to improving
someone’s learning potential. Learning goals help people move in the
direction of insights about core subject knowledge, concepts, connections
and reference points for future use. Teaching goals are often based on
memorization and rote drills that are not enhancing critical thinking or
problem solving skills. When relevant parallels to accurate information are
exposed, learning is enhanced. For example: 85% of a full golf swing can
be learned from a chip shot. This insight is sometimes referred to as cross
training, or indirect preparation. What we are learning today is based on
what we have learned in the past, or indirect preparation. What we can
learn in one environment is based on what we have learned in other
environments that learning is founded on indirect preparation is often
In some teaching environments students are just chasing information,
without taking the nature of knowledge or the nature of learning into
consideration. Looking past the nature of learning and focusing on
changing a poor habit or poor grades first normally will not develop skills
that last. On the other hand, learning environments move people beyond
the narrow field of someone else’s theories and “how to” directions to where
a students own free will extracts far more useable knowledge than anyone
may believe is possible from curiosity. True Play and learning that last are
founded on a students experiences and imagination, not on dogma.
Meanings and insights must come from the student, not someone else.
Picasso said, “Painting can’t be taught, it can only be found”.
Teaching environments often see themselves as having all the answers.
This approach can distract learners from uncovering their own truth or feel
for things. Some approaches to education have made it almost impossible
for students to interact and self develop from the kind of core subject
knowledge needed to experience “the joys of learning”. When there is a
lack of progress the problem is not poor learners. The problem is that
learners are not being given access to acts of self-development that are
often blocked by the reaches of someone else’s “how to” directions. For
example: doing a drill and hitting the same putt over and over on a putting
green for five minutes, would not be as valuable as hitting many different
kinds of putts for that five minutes with your own approach, as you observe
and adjust as you see fit. Note: Learning and unforced progress does not
get hidden in someone else’s translations during self-development.
Learning environments do not condemn teachers to be dictators, where
acts of teaching can be suppressing a learner’s own will. As students are
being asked to follow and obey. Students may not have the opportunity to
use their own “urges” or “intents” when a teaching approach is obstructing
the experiences of natural self-development through self-discovery
learning. (Do-observe-adjust) . The purity of our ability to learn is often
fragmented in teaching environments when students are always fixing.
In some teaching environments students are often seen as “receptive”
beings, instead of “active” beings. Note: we are all human beings, not
human followers. Being a preborn child, being a teenager, being a doctor,
being a golfer, is how nature designed man to learn. Living ones life and
learning go hand and hand. Learning environments that are efficient seem
to help the work of original invention through self-development (without
criticisms). People can invent heir own skills in environments that support
the spontaneity of doing, observing, adjusting. It seems that during a
workable approach to progress there is little teaching per say and lots of
playful investigation and invention of skills. Perhaps on the first day of a
new school year the teacher could say, “Our classes will be about inventing
your own reading, writing, math, or golf skills. You have the power and
ability to be your own best teacher. May I help you learn to invent”?
There are teaching environments where students are reduced to just
listening to a teacher’s words. History points out that at one time many
teachers used canes to enforce their directions, and when some parents
objected to the canes, teachers responded, “If you want us to give up our
canes – then we must stop trying to teach.” Well that exactly is what current
research into the nature of learning would suggest – stop trying to teach
and help people learn. My suggestion is avoid teaching environments and
self develop through your own self-discovery interactions with the
environment. Students should be allowed to expand the inner disciplines
that support learning. Its not Tiger Woods’ golf swing that is making a
difference, it’s his approach to learning (creative and competitive) and his
inner disciplines that have made all the difference.
I see my current thoughts about instruction as a “wake up call” to myself
about “how to” directions in traditional golf lessons where there is a lot of
teaching going on, but unknowingly much less learning. Just as a teacher
must call a students name before the student could respond, educators
must be speaking the language of learning, if they wish to support
progress. The real door to progress is self-development and some
approaches to learning are not swinging this door open, leaving some
learners outside. It’s learning that must be at the heart of instruction, not
Approaches to education that gives learners the time and opportunity for
exploring all possibilities in safe non-critical environments, become the
starting point for learning that lasts. Obstacles that can stand in the way of
real progress, including ourselves, are removed when curiosity and
creativity are supported. The wisdom and discipline needed for progress
are waiting to be awakened in every student. Keeping students fascinated
and interested as they explore all their options for learning is now my goal.
Efficient learning environments are 1) A source of possibilities 2) Energy for
the possibilities 3) A safe environment to explore all the possibilities. We
have just described a mother’s womb. Safe environments are learning
environments and teaching environments are often filled with criticisms that
derail self image and the will to self develop.
In the 21st century golfers have more choices then in the past. The sheer
volume and variety of clubs, balls, places to play and clothing are all
increasing every year. The volume of golf instruction information has also
increased over time. But more information does not guarantee a better
education in golf or any other discipline. Today’s golfers may even find it
more difficult to learn the game than in the past because of the volume of
dissimilar information and contradictions in all the “how to” directions that
are now available.
“Here’s my money, tell me what you want me to do, is not the most efficient
approach to learning anything even golf.”
Philosophy: Stop trying to change poor habits, and introduce ways to
maximizing learning potential and core knowledge.
Fact: Learning environments are different than teaching environments.
Goal: To influence the pace of progress by changing poor insights with
accurate concepts, connections, and parallel information about core
Every golf book is not for every golfer; on the other hand there is some
good in all of them. But when reading golfers must be grounded in core
subject knowledge to determine what may or may not help your individual
approach to golf and avoid possible damage to your progress. Staying
open to different ideas normally can promote progress, but we must also
understand that all ideas are not equal in value. While an author and a
reader may have progress as a mutual interest, it’s compelling logic and
core knowledge that promotes progress. Learning has components of
change that normally lead to other changes. Insights about learning are
also insights about what causes, permits, and fosters useful change and
progress, if change is grounded in core knowledge. Perhaps instructors
should be seen as caretakers of learning potential and developers of skills,
not teachers of subjects or sport skills.
It may help to see the golf ball as a translator. At impact the golf ball is
translating the alignment and application of force into ball flight. Ball flight is
never a mistake; it’s the only possible result, given the current alignment
and application of force through impact. To improve or change ball flight,
the alignment and application of force must change-PERIOD! Golfers, who
are trying to learn to hit the ball better, must first learn to align the club
differently through impact, only then will ball flight change. Period! With
some understanding of where we want the club shaft, head and face to be
aligned through impact, progress becomes possible. Focusing on how to
move ones body is less valuable then focusing on what you want to do with
the club through impact.
In the Aug 24 issue of The New York Times, James Traub wrote a story
about Harvard’s new president Lawrence Summers and his views on
education. It was a pleasant surprise to read some of his insights parallel to
mine. Summers said he wants to move Harvard in the direction of being
more directly engaged with problems in education and public health.
Harvard’s new president said he wants to change the undergraduate
curriculum so that students focus less on esoteric “ways of thinking” and
more into “actual knowledge.”
Summers said, “The idea that we should be open to new ideas is very
different from the supposition that all these ideas are equally valid. It’s more
important for students to have a basic understanding of literature – than of
the current fashions in literary theory. I’d like to see Harvard emphasize
more knowing (core knowledge)”.
My hope for golf education in the future is that it will be based more on core
knowledge from the nature of learning and the application of force and less
on the latest (in fashion) instruction tip that is different from the tip that
preceded it, or the one that would follow.
Summers said it’s important for Harvard to be at the forefront of cutting
edge research. He points out while its socially unacceptable at an elite
University to admit that you have not read Shakespeare’s plays – there is
no stigma attached to not knowing difference between a gene and a
chromosome (core knowledge). “The hard question is the line between
learning and only surveying broadly, less deeply and less close to a
genuine professional experience.”
Traditionally golf education opportunities tend to offer ideas and
suggestions that are not only dissimilar to competing opinions, but they
normally lack any core knowledge about application of force, the nature of
learning or the nature of knowledge.
The intellectual revolution that President Summers hopes to capture at
Harvard is broad based. He said “More and more areas of though
(subjects) have become susceptible to progress, to relevant questions, to
looking at the world and trying to find answers and views that represent
closer approximations of the truth” (core knowledge).
It is my hope that golf education would also be offering information that has
views that represent a closer approximation of the truth about application of
force and the nature of learning and knowledge. Today golf education is
often filled with conceptions that are intellectually interesting but
Lawrence Summers talked a great deal about raising the status and
increasing the resources of the Schools of Education and Public Health,
making these schools central to improving the life of communities. “This is
probably the most important way that we can magnify Harvard’s
contributions to addressing the pressing problems of the world.”
If President Summer’s believes the best way for Harvard University to
address the pressing problems of the world is by improving the School of
Education- at Harvard, it should be good enough for the golf industry.
Traditional golf education often disorientates golfers and they stop playing
a game that they wanted to learn. Golf teaching environments should
become user-friendly learning environments, if the industry expects to grow
the game. Summers said he would like to remap intellectual life at Harvard.
Today’s traditional approaches to golf education should also be re-mapped
if the industry expects more golfers to experience the joys of learning and
continue playing golf.
Summers said his wish for boldness was “winning out over apprehensions,
politically correct and inbreed thoughts that lack intellectual energy”.
Summers’ compares this kind of ignorance to never living outside your own
country. “Students should live their subjects, not just sights see.” He also
points out that the distinction between humanistic thinking and core subject
knowledge has become blurred. Summers’ wants actual knowledge to
outweigh ways of thinking (what’s the latest fashion), while realizing both
modes of understanding are important, but not equal.
I realize that there are some shared values and goals in the instruction
community and I’m only pointing to the research that shows there are
efficient keys to learning that are being overlooked in some teaching
environments. Accurate insights into the application of force are also being
overlooked. Learning environments expand the opportunity for students to
receive the highest return on their investment of time and resources, as
they find their own path to learning and pipelines to opportunities. Learning
environments provide a bridge to progress when students learn by doing.
Inspiration and advice that supports and delivers a targeted real world
education to every student is available in learning environments. Education
should be a personal experience of self-development that ignites the
student’s ability to move beyond the lessons learned in classrooms and on
driving ranges and become life long learners with flexible knowledge and
portable skills. By experiencing a learning environment you also experience
a learning resource center that supports and encourages our natural ability
to learn, accomplish goals, and enhance ones life. Learning environments
are where things come together and fall into place. Learning environments
combine research, theory, and practice. Learning environments inspire
progress by motivating a student’s imagination, curiosity, what if ideas and
interest making learning fun.
Note: When something holds our interest we will stay involved even when
progress is slow. For me it’s a poor concept for educators to focus on fun
before finding ways to promote interest. Interest is the main course, fun is
the desert. What will be interesting and hold a students attention may
change from time to time and from student to student, and this is the
challenge of education. Fun in some ways takes care of itself; educators
must find approaches to learning that guides students in the direction of
long-term interest if that would like to promote long-term learning. Webster’
s defines interest as: “To share in something, curiosity, to involve, to cause
a feeling”, and fun as :”A source of enjoyment”. From these definitions we
could say, Interest causes fun.
© 2006, 2008 Michael Hebron