Monday, June 23, 2008

The Cognitive stage of skill acquisition

The first stage of skill learning is the cognitive stage. The fundamental requirement here is that the athlete gains an understanding of the task required. This will necessitate knowing what to do and an insight about how to do it. Conceptualisation - or the generation of clear mental pictures of the task - is essential for good movement reproduction. Demonstrations, videos and information highlighting the important points can help guide the learner through the skill. However, coaches must be careful to avoid 'information overload', which would confuse the learner.
It is expected that the learner will encounter problems, the number and magnitude of which will depend on the difficulty of the skill. The learner may experience error, awkwardness and some disorientation. Thus, learners must recieve continuous feedback or information on their progress. If they experience much difficulty, the skill could possibly be broken into smaller movements for practice. During this stage, the learner should experience some success. All positive learning should be reinforced adn encouraged. Many coaches will give drills at this point to improve the learner's coordination and feel for the desired movement.
Rates of progress through the cognitive stage vary from one individual to another. Depending on the difficulty fo the skill, it could be learned in anything from a few minutes to a much longer period. Some difficult skills may never be mastered by some people.

(Above extract taken from: Third Edition, Outcomes 2 HSC Course, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education)

Below: A great example of conceptualisation.

Associative stage of skill acquisition

The second stage of skill acquisition is the associative stage, which is identified by an emphasis of practice. The learner, having acquired an idea of what the skill is, needs to repeat the movement to enhance the synchronisation of their mind and muscles. errors still occur,but are smaller and less frequent than in the cognitive stage. Feedback is again essential to improve the skill, which the learner repeats frequently in practice. a sense of fluency or smoothness will develop as the learner's kinesthesis improves.
Practice will improve the way the skill is performed. The learner eventually experiences some success. These successes are felt more frequently with additional practice and feedback. Gradually, the learner feels more at ease as their confidence increases.
Learners can remain at this stage for a long period, even years. Some may never progress to the next stage. However, given sufficient practice, most will reach the level at which the skill execution is reasonable automatic. But this does not imply perfection, because performances at the autonomous level vary in their quality.

A great example to admire the smoothness and fluency of two autonomous athletes, is Mahe Drysdale and Rob Waddell's first 250m of their race off for the Beijing single scull position.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Autonomous Stage of Skill Acquisiton

The third stage of skill acquisition is the autonomous stage, wich is characterised by the ability to automatically execute the skill. Execution of the movement is now properly sequenced and performed instinctively. the performer has consolidated the many discrete skills (commonly called subroutines) that comprise the action. Their movement has a characteristic fluency as the sub-routines sequence and blen in esthetically pleasing motions. This is refered to as 'temporal patterning'. The movement looks good beacsue it is efficient, with the muscle groups working in order and producing only the necessary movements at the required time.
the most important feature of performers in the autonomous stage is that they are able to attend to other cues while giving little thought to how to perform the skill. Practice is still important during the autonomous stage, but mostly involves simulating the competition situation. Unless specifically practised to improve technique, training sessions for an athlete at this stage should incorporate pressure drills. This helps the athlete adapt their skills to the real performance.

(Above extract taken from: Third Edition, Outcomes 2 HSC Course, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education)

A great example of an athlete completely in the autonomous stage of skill acquisition is Daniel Carter. Note the execution of passess and kicks in relation to opposition positions: