Describe “Fitt’s and Posner’s” phases of learning and explain how you would structure practices to enhance performance Learning is a more or less permanent change in performance brought about by experience (Knapp, 1973). This is a widely accepted theory of the definition of learning. However … no one learning theory provides us with all the answers to why an individual learns the way they do (Grant, 2002). In this assignment I will be analysing the theories of Fitts and Posner (1967) and explaining how these ideas could be used to enhance the training and practices of a performer to improve performance.
Fitts and Posner (1967) were some of the first people to take a systematic look at skill acquisition. They suggested that the learning process is sequential and that we move through specific phases as we learn. The stages are hierarchical. Movement through each phase takes time and regular practice is required to make the necessary improvements for the performer to make a smooth transition into the next phase of learning. Also the learner may move back a stage, depending on the situation. There are 3 phases to learning a new skill, these are:
Cognitive phase – this is the initial stage of learning and is characterized by trial and error. This stage involves building formation of a mental picture of the skill, events and cues which demand much attention early on, later in development go unnoticed. Movements may lack fine control and appear uncoordinated. The performer tries to understand sub routines that are needed to perform the skill. The learner gathers information about the requirements of the skill from a range of sources; the most effective is a demonstration.
Simplistic general feedback must be given to the performer so as not to overload them with technical terminology that they wouldn’t be able to implement. The cognative phase has also been identified by (Martenuik, 1976) as the third level of motor control which has a closed loop element with proprioceptive awareness. The ability to use selective attention in the cognative phase is essential as the brain can only deal with one piece of information at a time, this links in with the single channel hypothesis where by the brain can only process one stimuli at a time.
In the cognitive phase of learning to play tennis, the performer struggles with all basic actions and using the racket seems awkward. Demonstrations performed by a coach of how to grip the racket and create a swing allow performer to build a mental image of the perfect model, they can begin to understand the required movements. The coach can instruct them to stand close to the net and can hit him/her balls and get them to knock them back over the net, offering simple constructive feedback after every ten or so shots giving them a chance to make the changes.
With practice, the movements and motor programmes will become smoother and the successfulness of the trail and improvement will increase. As they improve and build in confidence the coach can push them back to the baseline and make them play the same shots as previously. Associative phase – during this transition phase the performer will practice the skills they have acquired and compare their actions to that of and elite performer or “the perfect model” with the aid of a coach. Gross errors are gradually eliminated.
It is essential that the performer gains feedback about their performance at this stage, in order to understand what they are doing correctly and what they need to improve on. Feedback can be more specific targeting weaker areas of the performance. The performer may need to return to the cognitive stage to reform and check the mental image. The performance is more smooth and flowing with the foundations of the motor programmers set. When the performer reaches the associative phase in tennis a broad foundation of all the movements required are present. The actions are more fluent and consistently performed to a high standard.
If the coach were to introduce a new more advanced skill e. g. slicing a forehand shot, the performer would return to the cognitive phase briefly as they learn the new motor programme. The coach can give more technical feedback and the performer will be more able to make the improvements. Now the performer has a feel for how each shot should be played so if a mistake is made they could tell the coach why it happened. Autonomous phase – when the performer reaches this stage, tasks are performed with little or no conscious thought, fewer or more subtle cues are needed.
The first level of motor control can be related to this phase and is often referred to as open loop control, temporal patterning has been almost perfected and results are consistently correct. They will be at an expert level of competence due to lengthy practices, and the motor programme is used to control movements. The speed efficiency and consistency of the performance increases, performers are more able to analyze their own performance and use intrinsic feedback more than extrinsic rewards.
The performance is therefore smooth and efficient and can be triggered by one stimulus, leaving plenty of attention to use on finer elements of the skill. Not all performers reach the autonomous phase. If practice is not maintained, reversion to the associative phase will occur. When a player reaches this level in tennis, for example the player would be able to serve whilst contemplating what their opponent will do next, rather than being unduly concerned about the mechanics of serving.
The player can make shots manipulating the decision of their opponent and can think many shots ahead as the technical aspects of the shots no longer need to be thought about. All actions are fluent and appear effortless however a long period of time away from practice can cause perform to loose their “sharpness”.
- Acquiring skill in sport (2nd edition ) Bob Sharp Advanced PE for Edexcel, frank Galligan, Colin Maskery, Jon Spence, David Howe, Tim Barry, Andy Ruston, Dee Crawford. http://www.brianmac.co.uk/tech.htm