Teaching Philosophy

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Danny Crowley, Jr., PGA
PGA Teaching • Coaching Professional

Learning Philosophy • Why a Learning Philosophy?

Learning in the game of golf begins with the study of a conceptual and physical relationship required in voluntary actions. My learning philosophy is premised on this relationship of mind and body. I appreciates the art and science in learning and how it requires a working teacher-student relationship in a successful learning process. My Learning Philosophy is based on research and field testing of a curriculum designed for structured conceptual learning that is consistent with how students cognitively learn. There should be a strong correlation between Learning and Teaching Philosophies that can support one another in the challenges presented in instruction and student learning.

Learning Philosophy • The Art and Science of Golf

One man’s mind cannot work another man’s body.

Sir Walter Simpson,
1887, The Art of Golf

A Learning Philosophy must acknowledge the art and science in student learning in golf. There is a physical science applied in form and function and a psychological science applied in cognitive learning. This Learning Philosophy encourages student conceptual learning using a cognitive process of Critical Thinking, Observation, and Reflection as a means in achieving accurate and timely learning. This philosophy in learning stresses the significance of properly preparing students in knowing how to conceptually learn through developed skills in self discovery, development, organization, and assessment as their means of learning and owning technique.

Teaching Philosophy • Why a Teaching Philosophy?

“When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.”

Jean Piaget, Swiss Psychologist, 1896 – 1980

The game of golf covers a very broad spectrum in the physical demands and psychological requirements in teaching. A Teaching Philosophy is based on how instruction utilizes the student learning process in instruction. A Teaching philosophy appreciates the art and science in teaching and how it requires a working teacher-student relationship in the instructional process. This Teaching Philosophy was formed out of research and field testing that demonstrated how students can experience accelerated learning when instruction is based on a curriculum that is consistent with how students conceptually learn in golf. Teaching and Learning Philosophies should support one another in the challenges presented in student instruction and learning.

Teaching Philosophy • The Art and Science of Golf

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist,  1803 – 1882

This Teaching Philosophy has evolved through many years of research, study, observation, learning, and experience with students, mentors, teachers, and golf professionals. This approach to instruction utilizes a learning philosophy as a means for successful instruction and student learning. A student must be properly prepared to learn before teaching-learning can begin. Effective student learning requires a defined curriculum and an instructional approach that is appropriate to the manner in which students learn. Instruction must be based on understandings in the value of basics and required disciplines in golf. Short-term goals are to identify faulty student concepts and replace them with valid concepts of the golf swing. Long-term goals are to provide students with understandings, instruction, guidance and support in the learning process of building structured concepts in form and function of the golf swing. This philosophy in teaching encourages learning how to learn as a means to achieving personal ownership of skills and abilities in conceptualizing techniques in creative ways to meet the infinite demands of the game.

Learning How to Learn in Golf

Authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Excerpt originally appeared in Houston Golf Magazine by Jay Hall and Danny Crowley © 2003

How Golfers Learn
Learning is defined psychologically as a change in thinking. Cognitive and human factor psychologists study how what golfers think affects what they do, and what they do determines how they feel. Viewed from this perspective, learning to make a proper golf swing begins with learning how to think about making a proper swing.

“One’s golf swing,” wrote the great British Teaching Pro Percy Boomer, “can be no better than one’s concept of the golf swing.” In other words, how golfers conceive their golf swings dictates how they make their golf swings. This means a proper mental set-up for conceiving is needed for acquiring golf skills. That’s where experience comes in.

Using Experience to Learn
Have you ever pounded balls on the practice tee and, and you watch some skitter along the ground while others fly off to the right or dive to the left, become so frustrated that you want to throw your club down the range? Then, have you suddenly hit a dead-solid perfect shot that seems to have come out of nowhere? Have you ever just stood there, in awe of your own unexpected accomplishment? If so–however brief the moment–what did you learn from the experience?

Teaching is really the art of assisting discovery.

Mark Van Doren, (1894-1972)

Maybe you learned that you do in fact have the ability to make a good swing. That can be an important lesson. But what did you learn about how to make a good swing? What did you learn about how to do it again? What lessons were you able to take away from the practice tee to use on the golf course? If you are like most golfers, your answer is nothing!

The first change in thinking most of us golfers need to make is the notion that experience is the best teacher. The psychological fact is that none of us learns anything from experience alone.

We learn from the way we recall our experience.
Research by cognitive psychologists has shown that we learn virtually nothing from our experiences. Most experiences occur too quickly and have too many pieces with too little structure to allow learning to occur. The golf swing is a good case in point–it takes about one and a half seconds from start to finish and involves a golf implement traveling between 90 and 100 miles per hour. There is too much going on in too little time for anyone to learn anything from experiencing a golf swing other than perhaps the results it produces.

Insist on yourself never imitate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803-1882)

This means that we learn and change our thinking after the fact–from the way we recall the experience–rather than during the experience itself! This cognitive process is at the core of learning. For a golf lesson to be successfully learned, the design of the teaching-learning experience ideally should conform to the way we humans learn.

A Learning Process for Golfers
Cognitive learning is based in experience but its lessons come from the particular elements of the experience we happen to recall. Psychologists call such elements constructs because they are the building blocks used to reconstruct an experience in such a manner as to create a cognitive model of the experience. In learning the motions of golf, a construct is not the same as a “tip” or “swing thought” or a “magic move” or a “feel”. Rather it is a reliable and valid guideline for motion that “fits” logically with other constructs so our mind’s eye can combine and assemble them all into a cognitive model of what we hope to learn.

The model we build in our mind dictates what we learn.
We have all experienced times when several individuals received the same precise instruction and walked away with several different interpretations of the learning point–different lessons learned from the same experience. A learning format that guides everyone toward the same learning point may be the missing piece on the teaching and learning of golf. It may be that to improve their performance, golfers should first learn how to learn–how to use their experiences to build a mental model they can take with them to the first tee.

A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine.
Each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and constantly adapting.
A teacher must never impose on his student to fit his favorite pattern.
A good teacher protects his pupils. A teacher is never a giver of truth: he is a guide a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.
I am not teaching you anything. I just help you explore yourself.
– Bruce Lee – Martial Artist

The Power of Critical : Thinking, Observation, and Reflection in Learning

A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions – as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.

Friedrich Nietzsche,
German Philosopher, 1844 – 1900

The learning process flows something like this

  • Experience-  for example, trying to strike a ball with a golf implement
  • Observation- to observe and acknowledge what was accomplished or not
  • Reflection-  thinking about the experience after the fact, about sensations and feelings, about the results obtained and what might have caused them–learning begins when the experience ends
  • Recall-  recalling bits and pieces of the experience–that is, swing constructs–such as sense of balance, effort expended, body part producing or controlling the swing that best describes the experience
  • Reconstruction-  selecting the most relevant and likely swing constructs to describe and reconstruct the swing experience for your mind’s eye in the simplest way that will explain all the data
  • Model Building-  Identifying relationships among and between the various swing constructs recalled so that, in the simplest way possible, a cognitive model–a structure seen by your mind’s eye–that accounts for all the data can be built
  • Learning-  changing how you think about your golf swing–that is, using the cognitive model you have built in place of the actual experience as a mental reference you can take with you for teaching yourself desired skills and lessons wherever you go