Illusion of Learning

Monday, September 13, 2021

It’s a trap! Repeat that block and don’t move on until you master it, right?

When you do easy things like repeat dives, highlight a book, or reread your notes it feels like you are learning tons. But it is an illusion that fizzles out when the test, or Nationals, comes around.

Read and re-read notes, highlighting

When you were in school, you may have studied by reading and rereading the book. You might have highlighted vital passages and reread them over and over. Other students or teachers taught this was how to study.

This automated learning feels productive, but you aren’t learning anything permanent with those techniques. Long term learning happens in the moments you struggle to recall something, not during simple exposure. Being told the answer doesn’t strengthen your ability to remember it when you need it.

The 4way equivalent is doing a simple drill over multiple jumps. If you aren’t spacing it out appropriately for your skill level, it won’t stick as well.

Feel better, or be better?

Time to unveil the illusion. When you repeat that drill right away, you will FEEL like you learned more. You will be sure of it. You can quickly think of everything you fixed from dive to dive. The trouble is when you return to it in a few weeks, those fixes will be gone.

Since you didn’t practice recalling your corrections after your brain wiped it from short term memory, the knowledge won’t bubble up later. Or perhaps you did the same drill over and over, failing to introduce a variety of cues. In other words, you did E-6, but didn’t practice P6 or F6.

Make training challenging

Alternatively, if you made learning challenging and spaced those block drills out, put them in different circumstances, and delay feedback correctly you will be more frustrated that day. You will have less confidence because it was harder to remember, and you messed up more. BUT when it comes time for your next meet you will remember your fixes!

If you are bold and choose to make it hard, you are going to be exasperated and upset sometimes. Learning doesn’t work if it is spoon fed, and mastering new things is mentally uncomfortable.

The choice is yours, feel better or be better. Embrace the challenge, and do better at your next meet!






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I've watched Christy develop as a competitor and coach for 17 years and I've seen her do this again and again. There is one risk when working with her. You're going to want more, lots more!

» Dan BC – Airspeed

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