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The Three Stages of Learning Part 1 - Cognitive Stage
December 04, 2021
We’ve all learned something while we were young that stuck with us up to adulthood, like riding a bike, swimming, walking up and down the stairs without looking because it’s so engraved into our minds we subconsciously do it without even thinking about it. That only happens when you start early. The cognitive stage is when a learner is in their earliest learning phase because they are actively thinking about the presented skill. This phase doesn’t always mean that the learner is a beginner, but rather they’re learning something they’ve never done before, something new. An instructor would be communicating with a student in this phase through words, visuals, kinesthetic examples, or other feedback-driven tools to help illustrate a point. Since a student’s primary goal in the early learning phase is to understand how to perform a skill, a proper presentation of the skill would be ideal for them to copy as they’re still new, this will also allow the student to complete a skill well enough to begin practicing it, and with relevant feedback and further instruction when necessary. During the cognitive stage, the student will experience a lot of errors, an inadequate performance, and a lack of consistency and accuracy with their timing. Hence a learner may be able to observe or understand that they are doing something wrong but be unable to decipher why it’s inaccurate or what specifically needs to be improved.
INFLUENCE OF PREVIOUS LEARNING
While in the cognitive stage, basic learning is an amalgamation of patchworks of previously developed abilities and movements that are ready to be integrated with one or more motor programs that will help form a new skill or correction. Every person learns a new skill by applying their newly acquired motor programs and abilities, an example of which is when toddlers learn how to crawl, they do so with a cross-crawl pattern that eventually can be used to walk. Similarly, learning a new golf skill is essentially a matter of transferring previously acquired motor programs, movement patterns, and abilities into a skill that one wishes to learn.
Some specific motor programs and skills positively facilitate the transfer of learning a new golf skill, although when others communicate negatively, this noise may possibly interfere with the new ongoing understanding. An example of this is when a previously learned hockey slap shot has the ability to be transferred positively and facilitate the learning of clubface control at an impact of a golf swing. Conversely, a student who works long hours sitting at a desk may experience a negative transfer when trying to make a golf swing due to the person’s poor posture and lack of physical mobility.
While in the cognitive stage of learning, most students aren’t aware of how a new skill or correction can relate to previously learned skills. Hence the teacher is responsible for communicating the important relationships and similarities between movement patterns that make up the past and new skills.
UNDERSTANDING THE GOLF SKILL TO BE LEARNED
During a golf lesson, the earliest learning phase begins once the teacher explains and demonstrates a new skill or correction to a student. Appropriate cues are pointed out by the teacher as students don’t yet know the relevant signals to focus their attention on during skill demonstrations. Students may also be unaware of how the new skill or correction relates to past learned skills or modifications, and because of this teachers must show how the “old” learning can be facilitated into “new” knowledge.
When learning a golf skill, it begins well before any form of practice starts and with a cognitive understanding of how a skill is performed. In the course of the teacher’s instructions that communicate a new skill, the student must try to understand the goal of the craft, how to perform the action, and how to generate the expected movement. This understanding, it will enable the student to proceed to the next step and begin to develop and learn a motor program that will be suitable for controlling the movement and execution of the skill. The actual cognitive-motor strategy of the talent is known by many names, but in this lesson, it will be called a motor program or plan. Define a motor program as a sequence of general instructions that a student’s nervous and muscular system must be able to carry out for the successful reproduction of the movements that will be making up the skill.
COGNITIVE CONTROL OF AND ATTENTION TO MOVEMENT EXECUTION
In the early learning phase, students will try to perform a movement pattern that will make up the new skill, they will cognitively or actively think about the process on how to complete it, they’ll be thinking about how to properly execute and control their movements consciously. This type of cognitive control of their movements will take a lot of attention and mental effort, and during the early phase, students will sometimes only be concentrating on the performance of the skill and not be able to attend their thoughts anywhere else. Their motor programs are still largely underdeveloped; hence they will be unable to execute such movements effectively. Many errors are bound to occur with their initial attempts to perform the new skill during this phase because the new motor program will contain many errors and is far from its potential final version. Most of the energy that students spend in movement execution and control are much higher than later on because a motor program is ineffective, the movement will also be ineffective, and such the motor program is flawed which makes it inefficient. As students attempt to improve their accuracy during their swing, a student may co-contract their muscles around multiple joints to fix their joint angles so that they will move in unison. These students do this to square up the clubface to hit the ball which results in a stiff and robotic swing. The shot outcome will be coming from a cognitively executed swing that will be inaccurate, inconsistent, lack power for the distance, and have an undesired ball flight.
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