The objective of this study is to examine the stages of motor learning including cognitive, associative and autonomous stages and the role of attention in learning motor skills. Practice scheduling will be examined and the variable impacting memory and retention of motor skills and the impact of individual differences. The role of augmented feedback will be examined and finally, this work in writing will discuss the observable changes in human coordinated movement that occur as both novices progress through the stages of learning to hit a softball.
According to Hart (2011) "A motor skill is a learned sequence of movements that requires voluntary body and/or extremity movement to achieve a goal." (p.1) Optimization of a learning conditions is reported to involve "careful manipulation of the practice context. Motor learning is enhanced when practice variables are manipulated to promote cognitive effort since cognitive processes greatly contribute to learning during the early stages of skill acquisition." (Lee, Swinnen & Serrien, 1994 cited in: Hart, 2011) One of the primary factors responsible for the "relatively permanent change in one's ability to perform a motor skill" is reported to be that of 'practice'. (Hart, 2010, paraphrased)
I. Fitts and Posner: Stages of Learning
It is reported by Hart (2011) that Fitts and Posner (1967) posited that the learning process "is sequential and that as we learn we move through specific stages. In 1967, Fitts and Posner developed a model to describe the process of learning, which consisted of three stages; the cognitive stage, the associative stage, and the autonomous stage."
There following are stated descriptions of each of these stages in the process of learning:
(1) Cognitive Stage -- this is the stage when the learner first becomes aware of the motor task. During this stage the learner is more focused on what to do instead of focusing on how to do it;
(2) The Associative Stage -- this stage involves the learning beginning to refine their skills and conscious decisions shift to automatic decisions with the performer concentrating on the task and increasing their skill;
(3) The Autonomous Stage -- the performance during this stage is almost automatic such as walking without consciously thinking about it. (Hart, 2010, paraphrased)
II. Various Motor Learning Concepts
There are also various motor learning concepts including the following stated motor learning concepts:
(1) Speed/Accuracy Trade Off -- as the individual moves faster they do so with less precision however, when the individual slows down again they become accurate once more;
(2) Thorndike's Law of Effect -- This holds that organisms have a tendency to be repetitive with responses that are rewarded and that they tend to avoid unrewarded responses or those for which they receive punishment.
(4) Information Feedback -- feedback is the brain's connection to the body and its surrounding environment and feedback plays a role in the control and movement of learning.
(4) Knowledge of Results -- information that the learner receives in regards to the extent, which the accomplished movement goal was enabled by the response;
(5) knowledge of Performance -- this is information that the learner receives about the performance and execution of the movement.
(6) Intrinsic feedback -- This is when internal feedback is received by the individual during task execution;
(7) Extrinsic Feedback -- this is reported to occur at the time that external feedback, or outside feedback is received during and following the response from the source which is outside including coaches, teachers, researchers and special devices. (Hart, 2011, paraphrased)
III. Augmented Feedback
The work of Kaisu Mononen (2007) entitled "The Effects of Augmented Feedback on Motor Skill Learning In Shooting" reports a study focused on the examination "the effects of knowledge of performance (KP) on motor skills performance and learning within the context of precision rifle shooting." (Mononen, 2007, p.1) The effects of KP were examined as it relates to accuracy in shooting, stability in holding the rifle as well as posture and balance. It is related that the participants with "auditory KP during 50% of the trials showed the highest shooting accuracy in all the retention tests." (p.1) The work of John C. Hall (2002) reports a study with the purpose of examining the potential role of imagery practice during the acquisition of surgical skills. Imagery practice is reported as the "mental rehearsal of a skill." (p.1) Findings in the study show that cognitive processing that happens during times of learning that is intense in nature "involves processes such as dream enactment behavior and imagery practice. These processes complement and augment the more usual forms of practice." (Hall, 2002, p.1)
IV. Direct Instructional Approaches
Thomas (2007) reports a study that finds that direct instructional approaches are models that make provision of a "memorable sequence for novices to structure outdoor leadership skill sessions, and if implemented effectively…allow high rates of engagement in practice tasks…" (p.1) The work of Pichierri, Wolf, Murer, and de Bruin (2011) reports a study in the form of a systematic search which focused on older adults and state findings that indicate "in addition to physical forms of training, we should also consider cognitive rehabilitation strategies that aim to influence physical functioning e.g., walking behavior of older adults." (p.1) The review included articles that evaluated the effects of "cognition rehabilitation intervention on motor skill outcomes that examined the effects of mental imagery on physical functioning of older adults. Findings state "The computerized cognitive training program proposed by Talassi et al. produced an improvement in functional status, measured by the Physical Performance Test, in patients with mild cognitive impairments." (Pichierri, Wolf, Murer, and de Bruin, 2011, p.1)
V. Steps in Psychomotor Learning
The work of Sullivan and Baker (2010) reports that steps of psychomotor learning include: (1) preparation; (2) conceptualization; (3) visualization; (4) verbalization; (5) practice; (6) feedback; (7) mastery; and (8) autonomy. (p.1) Findings in the study show "The acquisition of psychomotor skills is essential to the practice of surgery. If the instructor employs a consistent and structured approach to teaching technical skills, he or she may enhance learner performance and assist faculty in this process." (p.1) The work of Mitchell, De Houwer, and Lovibond (2009) examines the propositional nature of human associative learning and states "According to the propositional approach, associative learning depends on effortful, attention-demanding reasoning processes. The process of reasoning about the relationship between events produces conscious, declarative, propositional knowledge about those events." (Mitchell, De Houwer and Lovibond, 2009, p.186)
The work of Shuell (1990) entitled "Phases of Meaningful Learning" conducts a review of literature that examines evidence that relates in "complex meaningful learning the learner passes through a series of stages or phases during which the learning process and the variables influencing it change systematically." (p.1 ) Findings in the study relate "It is suggested that during the initial phase of learning the individual typically acquires isolated facts that are interpreted in terms of preexisting schemata and added to existing knowledge structures. Gradually, the learner begins to assemble these pieces into new schemata that provide him or her with more conceptual power until a level of automaticity is achieved." (Shuell, 1990, p.1)
The work of Dunphy (2003) entitled "Assisted Performance and the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD); a Potential Framework for Providing Surgical Education" reports that assisted performance defines "what a learner can do with help, with the support of the environment, of others and of the self." (p.1) It is reported that the contrast "between assisted performance and unassisted performance identified the fundamental nexus of development and learning that Vygotsky
describes as the zone of proximal development (ZPD)." (Dunphy, 2003) A Zone of Proximal Development can be created or any skill. The assistance in the ZPD is derived from the teacher, expert or more capable peer. (Dunphy, 2003, paraphrased) Vygotsky stated that teaching can only be held to be good teaching when that teaching "…awakens and rouses to life those functions which are in a stage of maturing, which lie in the zone of proximal development." (1956 cited in Dunphy, 2003, p.1) The learner gradually gains understanding in regards to the way that the parts of the activity are relative to each other and in understanding the performance's meaning. There are reported to be four stages in learning:
(1) Stage One -- During this stage there is a rapid decline in the teacher responsibility for performance of the task;
(2) Stage Two -- During this stage the learner carries out a task without receiving assistance from others although the performance is not yet fully developed;
(3) Stage Three -- This stage is where performance is developed as well as automatized;
(4) Stage Four -- This stage is reported to be the stage where "de-automatization of performance leads to recursion back through the ZPD." (Dunphy, 2003, p.3)
Summary and Conclusion
Motor skills are best learned with assistance and practice characterized by supervision and feedback from the more knowledgeable individual who works with the learner. Learning is a sequential process in which the learner moves through several stages beginning with the…