Learning Strategies in Physical Education: Self-Talk, Imagery, and Goal-Setting

Article excerpt

Learning strategies are the cognitive tools used to systematically manage the thought process associated with knowledge and skill acquisition (Anderson, 1992). Just as mountain climbers strategically prepare to scale uncertain and difficult slopes, students also must prepare strategically to enhance their potential to learn new skills. Learning strategies should be seen as the intellectual resources that enable learners to plan, organize, monitor, guide, and reflect on learning. Said differently, learning strategies promote self-regulated learning.

In this article, beliefs about learning and learners that support learning strategy use, and then aspects of self-regulated learning that learning strategies improve are discussed. Next, three learning strategies - goal-setting, imagery, and self-talk - are defined and connected to efforts to encourage self-regulated learning in physical education classrooms. Criteria that can be used to judge the effectiveness of a learning strategy follow. Finally, tips for getting started are presented.

Beliefs that support learning strategy use

Learning strategy use is based on cognitive theories of learning that view learning as the process by which information is interpreted, related to the learner's existing knowledge and skills, and organized for later retrieval. (Scheid, 1995). The belief that learners interact and elaborate on their experiences has prompted both researchers and practitioners to pay closer attention to the ways learners consider and make sense of instruction. A number of cognitively oriented guidelines for learning and learners have emerged:

1. Learners must be positioned at the center of the learning process. It is from the learner's perspective that meaning is forged.

2. Learning is goal-directed. People learn for a purpose. Purposes are reasoned in relation to the learner's background knowledge, experiences, and motivations for learning. It is important, therefore, to embed the reasons for learning into the act of learning.

3. A number of ways exist to have knowledge. To effectively bring individuals' way of knowing to bear on learning tasks, they must be equipped with the skills that enable them to bridge the gap between informal (sometimes referred to as folkways of knowing) and more formal (disciplinary and principled) versions of knowledge.

4. Learning involves not only cognitive activities, such as relating, analyzing, and memorizing, but also affective activities, such as attributing, motivating, concentrating, and exerting effort, and metacognitive regulation activities, such as planning, monitoring, evaluating, and reflecting (Brown, Armbruster & Baker, 1986). Feelings, attitudes, values, intuitions, interests, significant relationships, and commitment of the learner cannot be separated from the learning process.

Cognitive learning theories assume that even when instruction is done very well, it is the learners who must acquire the knowledge, insights, and skills (Brown, 1987). If learners create understanding, it logically follows that learning must involve some measure of self-regulation. How much educators prepare students to engage in the processes involved in affording more control for learning will determine how much students are prepared to function as competent, self-directed learners (Jones, Palinscar, Ogle, & Carr, 1987).

Learning Strategies Improve Self-Regulated Learning

Learning strategies contribute to the individual's ability to comprehend incoming information, improve concentration, gain insights into the way learning occurs, and promote self-regulated performance. The strategies learners use to receive, interpret, and organize information play an instrumental role in focusing and guiding the thought processes and the actions that occur during the construction of movement patterns (Anderson, Haslam, & Van Holst, 1994).

Teaching learning strategies to learners helps them create links between existing knowledge and new content. …