The learning environment – Improving PDHPE
Study Notes

In order for a learner to succeed through the stages of learning, they must consider where, when and how they practice. The environment in which they are practising needs to make the learner feel comfortable and safe, ensure the right equipment is available and is structured properly. Still, there are some other considerations that can affect the way coaches prepare and carry out their training sessions. Coaches and athletes should consider the following areas when it comes to practising a skill.

– Nature of the Skill

The following areas help coaches and athletes to characterise skill development:

1 – Degree in Which the Situation Is Noted As Being Foreseeable and Steady:

It is important that closed skills can be carried out in a stable, steady learning environment, which is predictable. Athletes who train in a closed environment are looking for a distraction free environment so that the can focus on improving technique in a specific area without the added stress of noise, opponents or wether conditions. The skill becomes easier to learn through repetition.

Open skills can be carried out in a slightly unpredictable and ever-changing environment. This is good to help develop decision-making and playing under any condition. Factors such as weather that changes, a poor playing surface that has been affected or even unconventional tactics being used in a game can mean that the athlete may need to modify or change their technique in order to adapt to the unpredictability.

There are some sports where the skill involved is either one or the other. For instance, ten-pin bowling is a closed skill but cricket can be open. Other sports may have a mixture of both closed and open skills (basketball mid-court play is open while basketball free throw is closed).

A cognitive stage learner will spend most of their time concentrating on the closed skill activities. This is the time they need for practise without distraction. As they get better at the game, their coach can incorporate more open skills with even more difficulty, shifting their attention to a setting that includes themselves and other players.

2 – Precision of Body Movements Necessary For Success

Fine motor skills allow for the utilisation of small muscle groups to generate an accurate movement. This type of skill is often found in movements that require finesse and limited movement. E.g. playing darts, catching a ball in cricket, serving in table tennis.

Gross motor skills utilise the larger muscle groups to generally generate movement. This skill is often found in team games. E.g. running, leaping, tackling.

Remember, some sports will require one or the other. And, there are some highly refined skills that demand both like the general action of spin bowling in cricket (gross). But, using the fingers necessary to create the spin on the ball (fine).

3 – Amount In Which An Athlete Chooses When A Skill Is Performed

Self-paced skills are when the athlete is in control of the movement and chooses when to complete them – when to start their long jump run or take the penalty in soccer

Externally-paced skills are not up to athletes, being carried out when the external force makes them either react or make a contribution to complete the activity – such as a goalkeeper attempting to save the penalty kick in soccer.

4 – Amount In Which The Skill’s Beginning and Ending Is Clear

Discrete skills are ones that have clear beginnings and endings like a 100m sprint or tennis serve.

Serial skills are when a movement is an amalgamation of discrete skills to complete one movement. E.g. a goal kick in rugby league.

Continuous skills have no set beginning or ending, only based on what the athlete sees and can often be seen as being repetitive– running, swimming.

When preparing coaching activities, it is important that a coach utilises the data that is available based on these classifications. The analysis of this data will help the coach plan a coaching session that best suits their athletes based on what stage of skill acquisition they are up to.

– The Performance Elements

In order to develop sporting ability for any sport, it is important to do the groundwork. Essentially that is skill development – an example being catching or kicking balls. Unfortunately, it is not just skills alone that foster success. An athlete needs this plus other attributes to succeed on their chosen sport. The athlete must work hard to continue to improve their level of skill to be able to use them competitively.

Essentially, the overall goal for any coach or athlete is to try and progress to the autonomous stage. However, in order for this to happen, they must be provided chances to advance in other important game aspects. It’s the coach who is responsible for recognising what those needs are, provide the athletes with the activities they need to put attention on and communicate with them in a way that allows the athlete to grasp what is being asked of them.

In training, the use of modified games with a targeted focus on development is called game-sense approach. What are the key areas of development coaches should focus on?

Decision-Making

Decision making is an important aspect of any sport, in articular team sports. Athletes in team sports have the ability to already know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done based on game plan and external cues that are evident throughout the game. Any decision made in the game comes from the external cues that force a response. You can improve your decision-making ability by performing game like situations consistently so that the athlete constantly has to make quick decisions. Coaches can use effective questioning and asking the athlete to think and understand the choices they make to boost this process. They can also use video analysis and problem solving and include variation and creativity into their training sessions.

Tactical and Strategic Development

Each game has its own set play patterns that ensure success. For instance, rugby league teams may employ and ‘up and in’ defence or a sliding defence to counteract the opposition.

It is imperative that the cognitive understanding of athletes is developed so they can do these patterns and respond appropriately to the other team’s patterns so that they can effectively defend or attack. Knowledge of the game and an understanding of why the tactics are being employed is also important to develop an understanding and trust in the tactics. At the start, players tend to rely upon instinctual movements in order for them to be successful. However, with tactical training, they can get a clearer understanding of the game’s tactical aspects.

Improvement in cognitive development is done by using scenario-based skills and small-sided games. Working in smaller games allows more time for decision-making and the ability to create game like scenarios which can be then transferred onto full field training sessions with opposition. The advanced skill is learned by being able to read the play, come up with strategies, create tactics and effectively use them, but comes after several years of game playing as well as good coaching.

– Practice Method

It is important as a coach to offer a variety of practice methods so that an athlete can better their skill level in their chosen sport. This variety is important because it helps in the development of the necessary skills, tactics and fitness of the sport being played. There are several ways in which to classify the methods.

Massed vs. Distributed Practice

o Massed Practice – Marked by the stages of constant practice with brief rest intervals. This type of practice is ideal for fun activities that are moderately intense or for very extremely motivated athletes. Think goalkeeping or golf putting.

o Distributed Practice – Marked by the short work periods with regular rest periods. This is better for activities that are regarded as being difficult to repetitive – geared more for high-intense activities where motivation can be low. Think tackling on a rugby team or water-skiing.

Whole vs. Part Practice

o Whole practice is the practice of a skill completely. Activities such as sailing or archery, which can’t be broken down into parts, are considered whole practise activities. This is geared more toward advanced or autonomous learners.

o Part practice is the isolation of certain mechanisms that are then practiced and combined to finish the movement. This is ideal for the complicated skills like pole vaulting. It’s also ideal for novice athletes still in the cognitive stage.

– Feedback

This is information that is given to the athlete that pertains to a particular performance skill. It’s also extremely important in all skill acquisition stages, in an effort to help athletes better improve their performance. By receiving feedback the athlete will be able to: reinforce the successful skills, correct and change skills that are not successful and continue to motivate the athlete. Now, there are three factors that must be taken into consideration.

Feedback Source

Extrinsic feedback – This is the information that comes from a source that isn’t the athlete – examples include video analysis, coach, audience

Intrinsic feedback – This is information that comes from an athletes internal thoughts and understanding of movement and performance which is generally from the performer’s senses. As the athlete becomes increasingly skilled, they should develop an ability to know when they’re making mistakes and have the knowledge and skills to correct them. An athlete that is able to develop and refine their kinaesthetic sense is more likely to recognise how the movement should feel and be completed if performed correctly.

Feedback Timing

Delayed feedback – This is feedback that’s given after a skill has been completed, usually through an external source such as coach, video analysis, etc. It can happen immediately after or days later.

Concurrent feedback – This is feedback given while the performance is going on, and is closely linked to work alongside and athletes’ intrinsic feedback. An athlete may make some changes in the middle of executing the movement or they may adjust it for the next time they make the movement. This type of feedback occurs whilst the skill is being executed (simultaneously) and it is relayed throughout the body by the proprioceptive mechanism (e.g. the feedback that a person receives while balancing on a surfboard– the information from the brain enables them to maintain composure).

Feedback Type

Knowledge of performance – This information is all about the play patterns or technique of the play (how the skill is performed). It’s used more often by people in the autonomous stage, generally coming in the form of either extrinsic or intrinsic feedback sources. Coaches need to be competent in looking at their athlete’s performance in an effort to help their athletes correct all mistakes – big or small. In team sports, coaches need to recognise plays, identify both team’s strengths and weaknesses and be able to convey these observations with feedback and develop team strategies.

Knowledge of results – This information concerns a skill’s success (the outcome), and is used to look at why the skills were or were not successful. This is more for novice players because they’re still developing their general motor patterns. An example is giving feedback based on the distance jumped in long jump.

Full Written Notes

Critical question 4: How does the acquisition of skill affect performance?
The Learning Environment

In order for a learning to succeed during the autonomous stage, athletes must consider the atmosphere in which they practice. This environment needs to be comfortable and safe. The necessary equipment must be available and structured properly. There are some other considerations which can also affect the way coaches prepare and execute training sessions.

Nature of the Skill

Skills are characterised by four factors:

Closed vs. Open Skills

Closed skills can be performed in a stable, steady and predictable learning environment. This environment beneficial for learning new skills as there are limited distractions. The athlete does not need to worry about opponents or noise and can familiarise themselves with the skill through practice and repetition.

Open skills can be executed out in a slightly unpredictable and ever-changing environment. Changing weather, unfamiliar terrain or the application of unconventional tactics during a game are factors an athlete must consider. They may need to modify their technique in order to adapt to this instability.

Some sports have clearly delineated environments. Diving is closed but surfing is open. Other sports may require athletes to develop a mixture of both closed and open skills. For example, basketball mid-court play is open while basketball free throw is closed.

A cognitive stage learner will spend their time concentrating on closed skill activities. As they get better at the game, their coach may incorporate more open skills, increasing the difficulty and shifting their environment to a setting which includes themselves and other players or factors.

Fine vs. Gross Motor Skills

Fine motor skills translate to the use of small muscle groups to generate accurate movements. This skill is relevant to activities which require finesse and limited movement. For example, playing darts, catching a ball in cricket, or serving in table tennis.

Gross motor skills utilise the larger muscle groups to generate a less than accurate movement. This skill is particularly useful in team games which require the athlete to run, leap and tackle.

Remember, some sports will require one type of skill or the other, while others demand a mixture of both. In cricket, players perform the general action of spin bowling (gross), while also ensuring the correct placement of their fingers on the ball to create the spin (fine).

Self Paced vs. Externally Paced Skills

Self-paced skills are performed when the athlete chooses or when they are ready. For example, a high jump attempt or bowling in cricket.

Externally-paced skills are beyond the athlete’s control and must be performed in response to outside forces. For example, when hockey goalkeeper makes a save or a batter hits a ball in cricket and baseball.

Discrete vs. Serial vs. Continuous

Discrete skills are those with a clear beginning and ending, like a 100m sprint, football pass or golf shot.

Serial skills are an amalgamation of discrete skills into a contiguous movement, for example, a goal kick in rugby league.

Continuous skills have no set beginning or ending, and are determined by what the athlete sees when moving as well as how and when they decide to respond. These skills are repetitive and may appear ongoing.

Coaches that analyse a sport using these classifications can better prepare the training activities or their athlete, regardless of their skill acquisition level.

The Performance Elements

At a foundational level, developing sporting ability requires the mastery of basic skills like catching or kicking balls. These skills alone will not ensure success because the athlete must boost their ability to use them competitively.

The goal is to ensure the athlete can progress to the autonomous stage. In order for this to occur they must be provided with opportunities to advance and learn other important aspects of the game. The coach is responsible for recognising what those needs are and providing the athlete with the relevant activities and challenges. Open communication is essential, so the athlete knows where to focus their attention and how to execute the skill.

The use of modified games with a targeted focus on development is called game-sense approach. There are several key areas of development coaches should focus on.

Decision-Making
Team athletes possess the ability to know what needs to be done and when to respond. Decisions made are founded on external cues along with a pre-determined game plans.

Athletes can improve their decision making ability by practicing in game like situations consistently, so that the athlete constantly has to make quick decisions, relating to the position of their team mates and opponents. Coaches can use effective questioning, video analysis and problem solving to enhance this process. Incorporating variation and creativity into training sessions can also have a positive effect.

Tactical and Strategic Development
Each game has its own set patterns of play, designed to facilitate success. For instance, a basketball defence take the form of man-on-man or zone. Football players may perform a 5-3-2 pattern or a 4-4-2 pattern.

It is imperative that the cognitive understanding of athletes is developed so they can recognise these patterns and respond appropriately to effectively defend or attack. Early on in their training, players tend to rely upon instinctual movements for success. However, with tactical training, they can get a clearer understanding of the game’s strategic aspects.

Improvement in cognitive development is done by developing scenario-based skills and participating in small-sided games. Advanced skills are cultivated as athletes learn to read the play, develop strategies, create tactical advantage and effectively execute manoeuvrers. The development of these skills will likely take several years of training, game playing and good coaching.

Practice Method

Continuous practice of a variety of methods can lead to vast improvements in the skill set of athletes. Practice and training are important because they nurture the development and understanding of necessary skills, tactics and fitness which are required to be successful. There are several classifications of practice methods.

Massed vs. Distributed Practice: Massed practice involves stages of constant practice, with brief rest intervals. This type of practice is ideal for fun activities which are moderately intense, or for very extremely motivated athletes. Goalkeeping or golf putting are good examples.

Distributed practice consists of short work periods with regular rest periods. This is better suited to skills which are difficult or challenging to repeat and replicated. This type of training is designed for athletes who participate in high-intense activities and may experience low motivation during practice. Examples including tackling on a rugby team or water-skiing.

Whole vs. Part Practice: Whole practice involves the training of a skill in its entirety. This type of practice is beneficial for advanced learners, who need to train and develop skill which can’t be broken down into separate mechanisms and practiced alone. Sailing and archery are good examples.

Part practice involves the isolation of certain mechanisms which are practiced separately before being combined to finish the movement. This is ideal for complicated skills like pole vaulting. It’s also a beneficial training method for novice athletes who are still in the cognitive stage of learning.

Feedback

Feedback consists of constructive commentary and information pertaining to a particular performance or skill. It is an extremely important element in all skill acquisition stages, as it can help athletes to improve their performance. Feedback can have three main effects. It can reinforce the execution of successful skills, correct and change unsuccessful performances and motivate the athlete to persevere with their training.

There are three factors which much be considered when giving feedback.

Feedback Source

Extrinsic feedback: Extrinsic feedback come from an outside source such as a video analysis, coach, or audience.

Intrinsic feedback: Intrinsic feedback consists of information which is obtained internally, by the performer using their senses. As the athlete improves, they should develop an innate ability to know when they’re making mistakes and how to correct them. It’s crucial that athletes possess a refined kinaesthetic sense so they can recognise how a movement should feel when it is performed correctly.

Feedback Timing

Delayed feedback: Delayed feedback is given after a skill has been completed, usually via an external source like the analysis from a coach or video. It can occur immediately after a session or days later.

Concurrent feedback: Concurrent feedback is given as the performance occurs and compliments intrinsic feedback. An athlete may make immediate changes to their movement or adjust their understanding so they can apply the corrections the next time they practice. This feedback is simultaneous with execution and is relayed throughout the body by the proprioceptive mechanism. For example, if feedback is received while balancing in a headstand, information from their brain enables them to maintain composure.

Feedback Type

Knowledge of performance: Knowledge of performance relates to understanding patterns or technique of play and how a particular skill is performed. It’s a skill used by athletes in the autonomous stage of learning, and is generally formed by extrinsic or intrinsic feedback sources. Coaches must be able to competently and expertly analyse performance they can identify and help an athlete correct big or small errors in their execution. In team sports, coaches must be able to recognise plays and identify areas of strength and weakness. More importantly they need to communicate this clearly to team members using effective feedback techniques, whilst also developing new team strategies.

Knowledge of results: Knowledge of results relates to the success, or the outcome, of a skill and is used to evaluate the effectiveness of performance. This technique is more relevant for novice players who are still developing their general motor patterns. For example, providing extrinsic feedback on the distance achieved in a long jump.