Monday, February 04, 2013

Skill Acquisition in Sport – 2012 edition – book review

Skills Acquisition in Sport - Second Edition -
Edited by Nicola Hodges and Mark Williams
This edition contains brand new chapters (21) collated into 4 parts. The book is an up to date / ‘state of the play’ with regards to sports’ skill acquisition and has much to offer vocational educators seeking to improve their teaching by learning how to enhance motor skills training techniques. Relevant chapter main points summarised.

Part 1 – Presenting information
 Chapter 1
R. A. Magill and D.A. Anderson
The roles and uses of augmented feedback in skill acquisition

**2 types of feedback available - sensory system (task-intrinsic feedback) and external feedback (augmented, external, extrinsic feedback) from coaches, teachers, trainers, or training device. Article focuses on augmented feedback with possibility of providing knowledge of result (KR) or knowledge of performance (KP).
Forms and uses of augmented feedback then discussed including merits and guidelines for verbal augmented feedback. Amount needs to consider short term memory limits and prior experience of learners. Content includes using correct cues (e.g. clock face direction), limiting to one process at a time, identifying and prioritizing mistakes to be corrected using a two-step decision process and allowing learners to work out how to self-correct if possible.
Non-verbal feedback using a variety of training devices in different sports provided as examples (e.g. swimming using different types of flippers to train specific muscle groups).
Theory based guideline for offering augmented feedback based on guidance hypothesis then presented.
Future direction for research include finding out which aspect of performance requires augmented feedback, how and when to provide and what are effects over a long period of practice

Chapter 2
Mixing it up a little: how to schedule observational practice
N. T. Ong and N. J. Hodges
This chapter discusses ‘when and how’ to provide demonstrations.
Recommends – early observation of a skill is useful to novice learners so that learners are able to begin building their own conceptual framework of the activity. So generally, before practice demonstration is more effective that during practice. Learner control may have benefits as well. Mixed practice refers to using both demonstration and practice, not just one method for learning motor skills.
Learners are encouraged to seek a demonstration as required – dependent on their own KR of the progress. In some tasks, demonstrations may compensate for some practice time.

Chapter 3
Attentional focus effect movement efficiency
K.R. Lohse, G. Wulf and R. Lewthwaite
Recommends that learners focus on EXTERNAL feedback rather than internal. Coaches etc. should therefore be careful to ensure that verbal feedback encourages learners to pay attention to external features of movements and not draw attention away from this.

Chapter 4
Advances in implicit motor learning
R.S. Masters and J.M. Poolton
Sort of supporting the above chapter, studies in using analogies to improve skills in table tennis and basketball are used to explain the following.  Learners are encouraged to work towards whole skill targets – move the bat as if travelling up the side of a mountain’ or ‘shoot as if you are trying to put cookies into a cookie jar’ instead of breaking the task down into small steps and for the learner to construct their own strategy through trial and error.  Basically, for motor skills – cut to the chase – rather than over-analysing each movement.  Works perhaps because the human body is already ‘well-trained’ in most motor movement and overanalysing, may lead to confusion of the ‘innate process’ for laying down neural pathways to assist with accomplishment of motor tasks.

Part 2 – Optimising practice conditions
Chapter 5
Contextual interference: generalizability and limitations
T. D. Lee
Discusses the pros and cons of different scheduling protocols on learning skill. The term contextual interference (CI) effect is used to explain how differences in the organisation of practice, impacts on learning. Initial acquisition of skill favour block practice (i.e. repetition of skill to be learnt). However, after initial acquisition, random practice leads to higher quality learning ie. ability to be flexible in response to a range of contexts. 
Large numbers of studies have found that CI is now limited to lab tests, practice in single session, CI is not limited to task outcomes, is not only found with young adults, not limited to motor learning, or to learners who expect the effect.

Chapter 6
Mental imagery, action observation and skill learning
A.Moran, M. Campbell., P. Holes and T. McIntyre
Overviews some studies on the efficacy of mental practice (MP) to improvement of performance in a range of sports (golf, tennis, swimming, finger strength, strength performance etc.). Summarises the theories of MP including neuromuscular model; cognitive / symbolic approach; bio-information theory and the PETTLEP. This is an emergent area and important to continue to understand how athletes construct MP.

Chapter 7
Ecological dynamics and motor learning design in sport
K. Davids, D. Araujo, R. Hristovski, P. Passos and J.Y Chow
Takes the view that individuals approach learning from different starting points. Goal is for all learners to achieve ‘experthood’ and for learning to be based on practice that will assist in the attainment of expert practice. Therefore, starting skill or expertise level of learner to be taken into account; understanding of the overall goal of the training needs to be identified; and primary constrains to learning need to be manipulated, or accounted for in the training process.

Chapter 8
The representation, production and transfer of simple and complex movement sequences
C.H. Shea and D.L. Wright
Seeks to explain how understanding the sequence or structure of movement, assist with optimising training. Imagery does not have to encompass the whole task but ‘unravels’ as the task proceeds Example provided is where pianist will retrieve relevant parts of a piece of music, as the instrument is played. Therefore when learning what to ‘upload’ when, it is important to establish movement structure. Learning of movement sequence is impacted by practice extent, schedule and influenced by non-practice factors (for example amount of sleep).
Experts organise the sequence of movement without mental effort, the challenge is to assist novices to learn the task, assist the formation of efficient sequence of movement and be able to transfer the learning to a range of similar tasks.

Chapter 9
Physical guidance research: assisting principles and supporting evidence
N.J. Hodges and P. Campagnaro
Physical guidance involves coaches physically guiding learners movements (haptic guidance) or use of mechanical equipment (passive guidance). Guidance of this sort is recommended for tasks that are difficult to learn and /or might be dangerous to perform without guidance (diving, ski-jumping, trampoline or gymnastics). The pros and cons of guidance of this form are discussed. Recommendations that guidance should be administered through a schedule of ‘fading’ so as to build learner independence; level of guidance and technique to be used determined by individual’s learning needs; and includes active involvement of the learner.

Part 3 – issues in motor learning
Chapter 10
Motor learning through a motivational lens
R. Lewthwaite and G. Wulf
As practice is critical to attaining motor skills, motivation of individuals needs to be also taken into account. Aspects that affect individuals’ motivations include perceived competence; role of positive feedback; and conceptions of ability. Providing learners with autonomy to act on feedback either through coaches of using assisted devices to gather ‘augmented task information and movement demonstrations all assist learners to maintain motivation.

Chapter 11
Motor skill consolidation
M. Tempe and L. Proteau
One of the longer chapters in the book covering some important ideas about how learning is only the first step. Practice is required to ensure neural linkages and strengthened and the relevant motor control areas in the brain are exercised and sometimes enlarged. Sustained practice to consolidate and stabilise performance is required. Practice need not be ‘situated’ or physical but includes ‘offline learning’ – whereby learners ‘digest’ practice and improve performance through perhaps visualisation or internal imagery, rest and sleep. Therefore important to allow time for skills to ‘bed down’ along perhaps with providing strategies to undertake ‘offline’ learning.

Chapter 14
Motor skill learning and its neurophysiology
K.P. Wadden, M.R.Borich and L.A. Boyd
The brain is ‘neuroplastic’. The chapter describes changes in the brain as motor learning is undertaken and consolidates; summarises the current research on what happens to the brain with short-term, within session changes and with long term, more permanent changes; what areas of the brain change during the various stages of motor learning; and what brain networks work together to support motor learning.
Practice and experience leads to recorded changes in brain neural networks and structure.
Part 4 – skilled performance

Chapter 15
The development of skill in sport
J.Cote, J. Murphy-Mills and B. Abernethy
Compares two approaches to talent development in sports. The deliberate practice and one in which later specialisation is possible through development of a range of skills through for instance ‘play’. Findings include early diversification can still lead to later elite performance’ early diversification linked to longer sports careers; early diversification allows for participation and learning of a wider range of positive skill sets; deliberate practice may lead to solid intrinsic motivation; high amount of deliberate practice play establishes motor and cognitive experience that can be transferred to principal sport; end of primary school may be good time to choose specialisation; and late adolescent time to invest in highly specialised training in one sport.

Chapter 16
Anticipatory behaviour and expert performance
B.Abernethy, D. Farrow, A.D. Gorman and D.L. Mann
Overviews the expert performance approach to skill acquisition. In particular summarises and discusses the ability to anticipate or predict events. This skill is important in many sports where speed in decision making and ability to adjust rapidly are important. Includes not only ability to predict fast movement but also have good overview / ‘read the play’ type skills which are important for strategic decision making. Strategies to increase anticipatory behaviour presented.  Visual-perception training approach needs to identify the limiting factor to be improved; device a suitable training medium to address the training need; and ensure improvements lead to enhancement in factor focused on.

Chapter 17
Perceptual expertise: What can be trained?
J. Causer, C.M. Janelle, J.N.Vickers and A.M. Williams
The ‘quiet eye’ approach for training visual acuity in sports like archery, shooting and basketball is backgrounded. Then the range of perceptual-cognitive skills that contribute to athletes being able to anticipate and make decisions in racquet and team sports also discussed. A good follow up chapter 16 and useful for skills requiring accuracy in targeting and visual overviews for rapid decision making.

Chapter 18
Embodied cognition: From the playing field to the classroom
B.Kontra, N.B. Albert and S.L. Beilock
Covers the ground of expertise leading to observable physical / structural changes in brain. Skills attained through practice of motor-skills may transfer across to specific higher-level cognitive activities – like learning language and comprehension of scientific concepts. The chapter uses studies on expertise (London cab drivers) and musicians and studies on embodiment exampled include ballet dancers and capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) practitioners.

Overall, much in this book to constantly dip into for insights. In the past decode, much progress has been made in the sports psychology discipline on skills learning. Vocational educators need to tap into this source of rich literature and work already completed to inform on better ways to design curriculum and engage students learning trade skills.


Jerry Gene said...

Nice post! Can’t wait for the next one. Keep stuff like this coming.

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