Differential learning is a method of training that highlights the exploration of movement patterns. It takes advantage of variations in a complex system by increasing them through ‘no repetition’ and ‘constantly changing movement tasks’ which add stochastic perturbations.
By constantly and randomly changing the technique used to execute a skill, the performer will:
- Discover what works best for themselves, and
- Learn to perform the skill in a multitude of ways.
In a study by Wolfgang i. schöllhorn et al “The Nonlinear Nature of Learning: A Differential Learning Approach” they studied the parallel acquisition and learning of two movement techniques in the sport of football.
One traditionally trained group and two deferentially trained groups ( ie blocked and random) trained for four weeks, twice a week, on ball control and shooting at goal tasks.
Results confirmed previous work and showed significant advantages for both differential groups in the acquisition phase as well as in the learning phase, compared to the traditional group.
These findings suggest that, instead of following a linear path to the target movement technique by means of repetitions and corrections, a differential approach is more beneficial because it perturbs learners towards more functional movement patterns during practice.