Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Examining the Personal Experience of Student Skill Learning: A Narrative Perspective

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Examining the Personal Experience of Student Skill Learning: A Narrative Perspective

Article excerpt

A student's experience of skill learning is personal and subjective. While few teachers or researchers would challenge this assumption, current research in physical education lacks a strong focus on the personal and individualized process of learning (Lee, 1991; Magill, 1993). In the motor learning literature, inferences concerning individual learning processes are limited because the between-subjects designs commonly employed compare performances between groups of participants (Magill, 1993). In physical education pedagogy, research on the individual experience of skill learning has not been forthcoming, although group-based studies on student cognition (Lee, Landin, & Carter, 1992) and student goal orientation (Solmon & Boone, 1993) have focused on important processes that mediate teaching and learning.

Examining the meaning of skill learning from a learner's viewpoint is a valued but understudied topic in physical education (Lee, 1991). Although describing the learner's experience is an important step, a set of theoretical constructs is necessary to interpret the structure of this experience. Given the lack of attention to the meaning of the learning experience in current theories of skill learning (Adams, 1971; Schmidt, 1975; Zanone & Kelso, 1992), constructs derived from an interpretive research approach (Erickson, 1986) may be the most appropriate to structure the personal experience of skill learning.

Theoretical Basis

Propositions from both constructivist and narrative perspectives served as the theoretical basis for this study. A constructivist approach to human behavior refers to a general orienting framework that focuses on the formation of meanings generated from experience (Cobb, 1994). Two different traditions have evolved from this perspective. Cognitive (individual) constructivism centers meaning-making within an individual's mind, whereas social constructivism suggests that meaning is primarily shaped through various social experiences. Cobb (1994) has proposed that these traditions are complementary rather than incompatible in that the former focuses on the process by which people learn while the latter centers on the conditions necessary to support learning. By assuming complementarity of these views, the following proposition was derived: The meanings that students develop from skill learning arise from active individual construction and the social context of the learning environment.

A constructivist view on skill learning is a relatively undeveloped perspective in the physical education profession. One view of skill learning as a constructive process (Lee & Solmon, 1992) broadly asserts that students actively transform teacher instructions by imposing their own goals and strategies for learning. This emphasis on individual construction recalls Wolcott's (1982) admonition that "we have not been as attentive to the fact that the learner holds the ultimate answer to the question of what has been transmitted" (p. 90). Of equal importance, however, is the rich and dynamic character of the social context as a means of shaping the learning process (Lawson, 1984). At present, research that acknowledges both sources of meaning construction has not been forthcoming in the skill learning literature.

The second premise of this study is the following: The meaning of skill learning for students can be expressed and interpreted through a narrative perspective. In educational research, a narrative perspective is evident in studies on teachers' knowledge and teacher education (Carter, 1993). Connelly and Clandinin (1990) asserted the central claim of the narrative perspective:

One theory in educational research holds that humans are storytelling organisms who, individually and socially, lead storied lives.... This general concept is refined into the view that education and educational research is the construction and reconstruction of personal and social stories; learners, teachers, and researchers are storytellers and characters in their own and others' stories. …

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