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The most effective learners don’t focus on their results

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
For learning purposes, this part is more important than where the ball ends up next.
  • Bradley R. Staats
By Bradley R. Staats

Author, Never Stop Learning

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Recently, at a baseball game, my eldest son came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out against a hard-throwing but wild pitcher. Most of the team was either striking out or walking. He ripped a pitch, but unfortunately it went straight to the shortstop, who fielded it on one hop and, given how hard it was hit, easily turned a double play from second base to first base.

My son’s response was not one of grudging acceptance that he had done everything right but gotten unlucky. Rather, it was “Dad, even a weakly hit ground ball would have scored a run.”

Of course, no coach would send a player up for an at bat and tell him to mishit the ball in an attempt to get lucky. But after seeing what happened, that is exactly what my son was wishing for. All three of my sons, when evaluating their performance in a game, react this way. They tend to view how well they hit the ball as a function of whether they got on base (the outcome), not of how hard and where they hit it (more accurate measures of the process). Unfortunately, their tendency is not uncommon. Most of the time, even though we know that learning requires evaluating the process we used to get to an outcome, we focus on the outcome instead.

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