The Learning Process

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Skill Development

Gross and Fine Motor Skill Development
      Every physical action/movement is controlled by the conscious brain based on a collection of learned responses that stored in short and long term memory. For the body's movements to progress smoothly and successfully, the athlete requires effective feedback. Repeated practice can permanently fix a muscle/motor response into memory, but it does not guarenty that the response is necessarily the desired response.

Types of skills
      There are a number of different types of skills:
  • Cognitive - or intellectual skills that require thought processes
  • Perceptual - interpretation of presented information
  • Motor - movement and muscle control
  • Perceptual motor - involve the thought, interpretation and movement skills
      The teaching process involved in a classroom or in a sport, the instruction shares the same educational techniques. These include:
  • Verbal instructions
  • Demonstration
  • Video
  • Diagrams
  • Photo sequences
The Learning Phases conceived by Fitts & Posner
      In 1967 Fitts and Posner proposed that learning is a sequential process and that learners experience specific phases as the learning occurs. They conceive of three stages in learning a new skill:
  • Cognitive phase - Identification and development of the component parts of the skill involves subdividing the formation and forming a sequential mental picture of the skill.
Anderson 1982: Acquisition of Cognitive Skill  March 3, 2000 Formulation of Fitts and Posner's stage theory of skill acquisition. Anderson argues that learning occurs in successive stages.
  • Associative phase - Linking the component parts into a smooth action involves a regime of practicing the skill and the use feedback to perfect/master the skill.
Fitts/Posner 3 Stages of Learning and Sport Speed Tests  The second stage of learning in the FittsPosner model is called the associative stage of learning.
  • Autonomous phase - Developing the learned skill so that it becomes automatic - involves little or no conscious thought or attention whilst performing the skill - not all performers reach this stage.

      The process of learning of physical motor skills requires the relevant body movements to be assembled component by component in a sequential order. A systemic feedback plan must be established to modify the skater's skills into a smooth, fluid action. Rehearsal/practice sessions must be regularly scheduled to insure the skill is acquired with the correct technique.

      Models of skill acquisition suggest that learners go through three phrases:

(1) cognitive phase—when instruction is most effective, errors are frequent, and performance is inconsistent;

(2) associative phase—when the learner begins to integrate the parts of the process or domain as a whole, and errors are gradually eliminated; and

(3) autonomous phase—when the process becomes more automatic and less moderated by cognition, and there is less interference from outside distracters.

Related References:

Filtts P M & Posner M I. Human performance   Michael I. Posner. Department of Psychology. University of Oregon. Eugene. ... First, Fitts outlined a theory of learning that involved several definitions.

Discovering deliberate practice activities that overcome   During the first phase of learning (Fitts and Posner 1967) novices try to understand the activity and concentrate on completing their assignd tasks.

Mental Skills Training For Sports: A Brief Review   Autonomous phase, i.e., the newly learned skill is capable of being executed unconsciously.

Schmidt's Schema Theory
      In 1975 Schmidt proposed a theory that was based on his view that actions are not stored in memory. His concept was that learners refer to abstract relationships or rules about movement. Schmidt's schema is based on the theory that that every time a movement is conducted four pieces of information are gathered:
  • the initial conditions - starting point
  • certain aspects of the motor action - how fast, how high
  • the results of the action - success or failure
  • the sensory consequences of the action - how it felt

      In his theory relationships between items of information are used to construct a Recall Schema and a Recognition Schema. The Recall Schema is based on initial conditions and the results and is used to generate a motor program to address a new goal. The Recognition Schema is based on sensory actions and the outcome.

          Related References:

Schmidt R A. A schema theory   Cambridge. England: Cambridge Univrrslty Press. 1932. 317 p. 5. Shapiro D C £ Schmidt K A. Schema theory: recent evidence and developmental implications.

Motor schema theory after 27 years: reflections  The schema theory for discrete motor skill learning (Schmidt, 1975), originally published in 1975, has generated considerable interest.

Adam's Closed Loop Theory
       Adam's theory (1971) has two elements:
  • Perceptual trace - a reference model acquired through practice
  • Memory trace - responsible for initiating the movement
       The key feature of this theory is the role of feedback.
  • Analyse the reference model actions, the result of those actions and the desired goals
  • Refine the reference model to produce the required actions to achieve the desired goals
          Related References:

Psychology of Motor Skill Acquisition   Motivation and insormation views of KR (Bilodeau, 1959); Fitts' (1962) - stages of learning; Fitts' Law (1954); Adams' "closed loop" theory of motor control.

SRKHIA Newsletter 11/04   He did not believe that Adams closed loop theory was valid due to the large memory capacity required.

Motor schema theory after 27 years: reflections and ...   Schmidt, influenced by Adams, [15] proposed a schema theory of motor ... Adams's (1971) closed-loop theory and Schmidt's (1975) schema theory of motor skills.

Transfer of learning
     Transfer of learning can take place in the following ways:

Skill to skill
  • This is where a skill developed in one sport has an influence on a skill in another sport. If the influence is on a new skill being developed then this is said to be proactive and if the influence is on a previously learned skill then this is said to be retroactive.
Converting Theory to Practice
  • The transfer of theoretical skills into practice
Training to Compete
  • The transfer of skills developed in the training process applied to competitive situations
Related References:

Transfer of Learning   The transfer of learning process is an interrelated series of tasks performed by Supervisors, Trainers, Learners, and Co-workers and Others

Transfer of Learning Part I: Transfer of Learning: Issues and Research Agenda Introduction Background   

UMass Amherst - Transfer of Learning   Transfer of learning is among the most important problems in education today. Students, especially in science, are all too often unable to apply what they learn to novel contexts both in, and outside the classroom.

Effectiveness on the transfer of learning skills
      The effects of transfer can be:
  • Negative  A skill developed in one sport hinders the performance of a skill in another sport
  • Zero A skill in one sport has no impact on the learning of a new sport
  • Positive A skill developed in one sport helps the performance of a skill in another sport
  • Direct A skill is immediately applicable from one sport to another
  • Bi-lateral Transfer of a skill from side of the body to the other - left and right or right to left
  • Unequal A skill developed in one sport helps another sport more than the reverse
          Related References:

Transfer   Negative transfer typically causes trouble in the early stages of learning a new domain. Transfer is all the more important in that it cannot be taken for granted. Abundant evidence shows that very often the hoped for transfer from learning experiences does not occur. Thus, the prospects and conditions of transfer are crucial educational issues.

Haskell's taxonomies of transfer of learning   Given the aforementioned analysis of transfer of learning, it is not surprising that both the functions of and the effects of transfer are equally pervasive.

Assessment of an athlete's performance skills
      A coach uses visual observations of the athlete to determine how their skill development compares to the technically correct desired model. Athletes should also be encouraged to evaluate their own performance using a video of their lesson or performance.

      In assessing the performance, the following considerations must be examined:

  • Are the basics correct?
  • Is the progress of the skill acquistion moving in the right direction?
  • Is the progess on schedule, behind, or ahead of training expectations?

      To achieve kinaesthetic feedback, it is important for coaches to ask athletes to express their feelings when correct examples of a motot skill is demonstrated.

      An appropriate checklist should be developed to facilitate a coach recording notes that can be used in the assessment of the athlete's technique.  The following may help you develop your own checklist -

Considerations for giving feedback on skill performance   When giving athletes extrinsic feedback about their technical skills, you can either tell what you saw (descriptive feedback) or tell them what you think they need to do based on what you saw (prescriptive feedback.

Performance Profiling: Strengths and weaknesses in athletes   The real skill of a psychologist or coach is in matching each athlete's requirements to .... between the athlete's and coach's assessment of performance

Athlete Assessment  The pre-test allows Athletic Republic to measure key movement skills, ... An athlete assessment may also utilize information gathered at a combine or testing ... upon combine results, as they can see how the athlete performs on video.

Assessment & High Performance Programs   Jan, 11, 2007 ... Assessment & High Performance Programs. The Walker Center will provide coaches, trainers, and their athletes the tools need.

Helping Young Athletes Transfer Practice Skills to Competition   July 10, 2008 ... Parents wonder why their kids can't take practice skills to competition. ... Athletes must improve technique to improve performance.

Athletic Insight - Self-Talk and Gross Motor Skill    It has also been suggested that self-talk may assist athletes' This was followed by a general assessment of the frequency of self-talk. Enhancing performance and skill acquisition.

Causes of poor transference of skills
    Having assessed the performance and identified that there is a problem, the next step is to determine why it it happened inorder to provide a course of action that can solve or mitigate the problem.  Problems in the learning process can be caused by:
  • Incorrect understanding of the movement by the athlete
  • Undeveloped  physical abilities
  • Poor coordination of movement
  • Incorrect application of power
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Equipment failure - requiring replacement
  • External factors such family problems (relocation, separation, divorce, financial/job loss, etc.)
Strategies and Tactics
    Strategies are the results of planning that occures at the start of each competitive season. The purposes is to result in a training program designed to put an individual or team in a position of winning.

    Tactics are how we put the strategies into action. Athletes in the associative phase of learning are gnerally unable to participate in the planning of training strategies, but the athlete in the autonomous phase should be able to plan and apply both strategies and tactics.

    To successfully develop strategies and tactics, it is necessary to know the strengths and weakness of opponents as well as the expected skill level that will be represented in each season's competitions:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of the opposition
  • Our own strengths and weaknesses

Habit Pattern Errors—when practice doesn't make perfect   Rapid error correction and habit reversal in sport, music, workplace safety ... Transfer of training from skills coaching sessions and practice drills to .... A prolonged adjustment period and poor transfer of learning are the two most

Cognitive Effort and Motor Learning   July 11, 2007. At times, the athlete seems to go into "autopilot" - the mind takes a short test, and individuals tend to repeat previously determined goals without giving much planning to the practice. On some days, much of the practice seems to be conducted on autopilot. What are the consequences of this type of practice?

UC Riverside Athletics - Weight Training   In all sport skills speed of movement is a desired commodity. ... rapid gathering from poor sport specific conditioning, skill expertise, ... In many sport skills athletes will transfer weight from one leg to another.

PDF  Childhood Development

PDF  LTAD Draft Version

PDF  Stages of LTAD Overview

PDF  LTAD Summary


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Program Development
Athlete Development
Skill Development
How We Learn
Stages of Learning
Parent-Teen Relationships
Youth Development
Stages of Skill Development
Stages of Figure Skating Skill Development
Long Term Athlete Development Framework
Techniques of Sports Skills
Principles of Motor Skill Mechanics
Newton's Laws of Motion
Athlete Training Principles
Being Successful in Sports
Age Appropriate Sports Training
Effect of Learning Environment
Essential Feedback

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