Fast, Simple Feedback Reinforces Learning

Source: WSJ, Oct 2012

Practice lets us execute a task while using less and less active brain processing. It makes things automatic. When performers master one aspect of their work, they free their minds to think about another aspect. This may be why many of us have our most creative thoughts while driving or brushing our teeth. Rote learning and conceptual thinking often feed synergistically on each other, freeing our brain capacity for those tasks that require the maximum amount of attention and creativity.

Research has established that fast, simple feedback is almost always more effective at shaping behavior than is a more comprehensive response well after the fact. Better to whisper “Please use a more formal tone with clients, Steven” right away than to lecture Steven at length on the wherefores and whys the next morning.

What drives mastery is encoding success—performing an action the right way over and over. A long analysis of why a soccer player’s ankle should have been locked when receiving the ball (critique) may be less effective than asking him to stand to the side and strike five balls in a row with his ankle correctly locked (correction).

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