Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Observational Learning and the Fearful Child: Influence of Peer Models on Swimming Skill Performance and Psychological Responses

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Observational Learning and the Fearful Child: Influence of Peer Models on Swimming Skill Performance and Psychological Responses

Article excerpt

The effectiveness of visual demonstrations in physical activity settings confirms the adage of a picture is worth a thousand words." Motor skill instructors frequently model the correct technique and sequence of skills to be executed by observers. When adequate practice and appropriate feedback follow demonstrations, increased skill performance and learning occurs. Research conducted in the physical domain documents the powerful effect of modeling on children's sport skill learning (McCullagh, 1993; McCullagh, Weiss, & Ross, 1989; Meaney, 1994; Weiss, Ebbeck, & Wiese-Bjornstal, 1993).

Observational learning or modeling is an area with strong theoretical underpinnings that can be easily translated to applied settings for behavioral interventions. According to Bandura's (1977, 1986) social-cognitive theory of modeling, observers attempt to match their responses to the model's actions through cognitive representation of the information contained in the visual or verbal demonstration. This information is stored in memory and then subsequently translated to movement when the opportunity presents itself. According to Bandura, four observer subprocesses are essential for successful modeling to occur: attention, retention, production, and motivation. In short, observers must selectively attend to salient information, remember the key points for later skill reproduction, have the motor capabilities for emulating the modeled actions and, importantly, also have the desire to want to produce the modeled behaviors. If any of these subcomponents are deficient, the targeted behavior will not occur regardless of how technically correct the demonstration is.

Observational learning is a successful method for effecting changes in children's sport skill development and has the potential for also influencing psychological responses such as self-confidence, motivation, and coping with anxiety (Schunk, 1987; Weiss et al., 1993). The psychological effects of modeling are, according to Bandura (1986), mediated by the individuals' perceptions of certain model characteristics (e.g., age, gender, skill level). Attentional and motivational subcomponents are particularly essential for invoking psychological change, in that the type of model employed should not only elicit the observers' undivided attention but also motivate them to want to change their attitude or behavior. While the psychological effects of modeling have been extensively studied in academic settings (e.g., Schunk & Hanson, 1985, 1989; Schunk, Hanson, & Cox, 1987), minimal research exists in the context of physical skill learning. Model-observer similarity has influenced motor performance and psychological responses (Flint, 1991; George, Feltz, & Chase, 1992; Gould & Weiss, 1981; McCullagh, 1987). Several relevant characteristics of model-observer similarity should be considered when designing studies to examine modeling interventions on performance or psychological responses.

Using a teacher or peer model is one characteristic of model-observer similarity that has been examined in the physical domain. With most demonstrations of motor or sport skills, an adult instructor models the target skill in a technically correct manner. While this mode of delivery is intuitively the logical choice for most children attempting to learn physical skills, it may not be effective for children who exhibit fear or low self-confidence in high-avoidance activities or skills perceived as difficult or dangerous, such as swimming and gymnastics. Research in educational psychology has shown that peer models, in comparison to adult models, result in higher cognitive skill learning (e.g., math problems), self-confidence, and motivation in children (see Schunk, 1987 for a review; Schunk & Hanson, 1985). In contrast, few studies of peer versus teacher models on children's motor skill performance have been conducted. In general, researchers have found that model skill (teacher or peer) rather than model similarity (i. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.