Motor Learning and Skill Acquisition
Divisions of Motor Activity


Motor activity can be divided into two divisions:

Automatic motor activity

Controlled motor activity
Automatic motor activity involved very little
thought

Results in movement that appears to be an
unconscious reflex action

i.e. Batter ducking out of the way before a rogue
pitch hits them
Controlled Motor Activity



Needs more thought and time to perform
Example: a soccer player weaving in and out of
opponents during a game
Processing more information as he/she is
moving

Where are the opponents?

Where are my teammates?

How far am I from the goal?
Principle of Individual Differences


Just as people have difference anatomical and
physiological makeups they also vary in terms
of how quickly and easily they learn a new
motor skill
Dependent on many things

Natural ability

Willingness to try new things

Coordination
Stages-of-Learning Model


Developed by two American researcher: Paul
Fitts and Michael Posner
In seeking to explain how people acquire new
skills, Fitts and Posner came up with a threestage description

People go through stages gradually

Cognitive

Associative

Autonomous
Cognitive Stage




People must come to some basic
understanding of the task
Learners often commit large errors in
performing the new task
Learner may be aware of their errors but need
specific instruction on how to improve
i.e. A child learning to play soccer will first need
to understand the fundamentals – no hands
(except goalie), scoring a goal, moving with the
ball, basic rules etc.
Associative Stage


Learners begin to refine the skill they have been
trying to master during the cognitive stage
Learners go beyond the basic mechanics of the
skill and develop some awareness of the
mistakes they were making


This leads to fewer and less pronounced errors
i.e. The soccer player may not be able to kick a
ball “on target” but will develop an awareness
as to why
Autonomous Stage




Skill becomes almost “automatic”
Learner will not spend as much time actually
thinking about the basic fundamentals of their
activity
Able to “just do” the activity while concentrating
on certain specialized and highly refined
aspects of the skill
i.e. Soccer player can attempt to “curve” or
“bend” a shot towards the goal
Factors Affecting Skill
Development



Factors such as fatigue, nervousness, weather,
and distractions can lead to information being
misprocessed by the athlete and therefore
cause errors
British track and field coach Brian Mackenzie
has identified 7 reasons for faults and errors:
Incorrect understanding of the movement, poor
physical abilities, poor coordination of
movement, incorrect application of power, lack
of concentration, inappropriate equipment,
external factors (i.e. weather)
Teaching and Learning a
Skill



Singer's five-step process – developed by
University of Florida psychologist Robert Singer
This method utilized 5 basic building blocks in
the teaching and learning of a skill
5 steps are:

Readying

Imaging

Focusing

Executing

Evaluating
Readying



Also known as the preparatory stage
Work to attain the ideal mental and emotional
state for learning a skill
May involve making sure the learner has the
correct equipment, feels ready to begin a
practice session, and has completed a proper
warm-up
Imaging and Focusing


Imaging

The learner must develop a “picture” in his or her
mind of the correct execution of the skill
components

Teacher or coach can assist by demonstrating the
skill
Focusing

Teaching the learner to block out all internal and
external distractions
Executing and Evaluating

Executing


Learner actually attempts the desired skill after
completing the three preparatory skills
Evaluating

Learner and coach attempt to assess which aspects
of the skill were performed successfully and which
need improvement
Feedback

The information a learner obtains regarding how
they are progressing in learning to perform a
skill

Can assist in improvement

Two kinds of feedback

1. KR feedback – knowledge of the results of an
action

2. KP feedback – knowledge gained by
performance
Transferability


The fact that skills, when learned in the context
of improving performance in one sport, can
often be applied, or transferred, to a different
sport
i.e. Someone learning a skill that emphasizes
hand-eye coordination – a volleyball serve, will
be able to transfer this skill to a slapshot in
hockey or a lay-up in basketball
Closed Skill vs. Open Skill


Open skill: performed in an unpredictable
environment that requires participants to adapt
their movements to the changing nature of that
environment (soccer)
Closed skill: performed in a predictable
environment and permits participants to plan
their movements in advance (archery)
Skills Observation

NCCP: National Coaching Certification Program

Identified two distinct stages of skill observation


1. Identify the purpose of the skill – why must the
task be performed? i.e. A jumpshot in basketball
is used to score points.
2. Break the skill into phases

NCCP has identified 5 phases of a skill
1. Preliminary Movements

Movements needed to get ready for a skill

Includes necessary footwork

Balancing

Body positioning

etc.
Back-Swing or Recovery
Movements



Movements that take place just before the
force-producting movements
Back-swing in golf
Arm recovery movement in a repetitive activity
like swimming
Force-Producing Movements


Movements executed to produce force for
impact or propulsion
Forward swing of the leg and foot in a soccer
kick
Critical Instant


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The point that determines how effective the
execution of a skill is going to be
Nothing can be done at the critical instant to
alter its effectiveness
i.e. Final foot-plant of a long jumper after
sprinting down the runway
The Follow-Through


Movements that take place after the critical
instant
In many skills it is crucial to the skill being
completed successfully

Slow body parts down therefore prevent injuries

i.e. Spike in volleyball, jumpshot, etc.
For Tomorrow


In groups of 4 or 5 pick a skill that you will teach
the class
Keep in mind

Breakdown of the skill

5 phases

Feedback

We will be in the small gym/weight room tomorrow.
Bring gym clothes!
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Day 2 - Motor Learning and Skill Acquisition