Sunday, December 18, 2011

Skill Acquisition: Constraints based teaching

Attended an interesting workshop by skill acquisition expert Damien Farrow at the ACHPERSA H&PE Secondary Conference. Some key 'take home' messages from the research re skill teaching that he presented:
- discard verbal instruction to produce idealised technique in favour of players developing understanding of how to move
- skilled players are better at pattern recognition: teach players to see the game as an organised pattern - creates better game decision making from players, and in particular, off-the-ball movement.
- package information with action (information creation): eg. if practicing goal kicking always have a defender
- adaptive retention creates more powerful learning, therefore, create situations with high variability eg. if practicing goal kicking always have a defender, but vary the defensive actions (high variability) and goal kicking scenario (high variability) within the practice session
- learning is enhanced/retention is higher when all practice tasks in a training session reinforce a principle of play eg. offensive triangle to maintain possession of the ball - what is the movement response of A2 and A3 when A1 has the ball = create the passing triangle. Retention is hindered if you have multiple tactical foci in one session.
- simplication of the environment (one of the key features of a game sense approach) to enable play based engagement with skill learning leads to better learning retention than progressive part skill instruction.

Interestingly, Damien indicated that recent research suggests it takes 500,000+ shots to become an expert netball goal shooter - as kicking at goal is a more complex movement within a more complicated/less stable game ennvironment than netball goal shooting the implications for teaching goal kicking are.....
The latest research on skill learning from a constraints based perspective has interesting implications for sport teaching in physical education. When considered alongside Ericsson's 10,000 hours theory (the time it takes to become an expert at a skill) and Cote's deliberate play ideas the sport-as-technique teaching within a multi-activity curriculum model might begin to look contradictory to what we know about developing skillful performers. Damien indicated one possible direction for PE is to consider a thematic curriculum based on TGfU-Game Sense game categories and to teach for adaptability and transfer rather than sport specific teaching. This is something that respected PE curriculum theorist Dawn Penney has also written about in the past.

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