Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Physical Education, Motor Control and Motor Learning: Theoretical Paradigms and Teaching Practices from Kindergarten to High School

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Physical Education, Motor Control and Motor Learning: Theoretical Paradigms and Teaching Practices from Kindergarten to High School

Article excerpt


William James (James, 1890) proposed one of the earliest descriptions of movement control, known as response-chaining or reflex-chaining hypothesis. The James hypothesis was an open-loop theory, in which attention is focused only on initiation of the first action of a movement. Each subsequent action was thought to be automatically triggered by response-produced feedback. In this hypothesis, ongoing movements cannot be modified according to unexpected changes occurring in the environment, and feedback is suitable only to regulate the movement chain (i.e. timing of subsequent actions) and is not compared to internally generated references for error checking.

The role of feedback is quite different in the motor control model proposed by Adams (Adams, 1971). Adams' closed loop motor control model has its focus in feedback-based error correction, throughout a continue comparison between memory trace and perceptual trace. In this model, memory trace results from practice and feedback about movement outcome, while perceptual trace results in guidance to the correct position along a trajectory, by comparing feedback about actual position in space with desired position. Position is adjusted until the movement is appropriate to the goal of the action. The importance of this model has been historically remarkable, also by virtue of the attention bestowed to human information processing, but the model has two major weaknesses:

1. The described process is possible if the whole time lasts less of 200 milliseconds, otherwise the human brain is unable to process the data and transmit pulses in time below this threshold (time problem);

2. This theory could not explain how models for novel movements were acquired (novelty problem); Richard Schmidt (Schmidt, 1975) overcame closed-loop theories with a model resulting of open-loop control process and Generalized Motor Programs. Schmidt called Schema the structure containing generalized rules governing spatial and temporal patterns to produce a specified movement. Schmidt's theory is precisely known as schema theory (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2008).

In this approach, motor learning means developing very articulated motor programs. As a result, teaching of motor activity will be prescriptive, by administering to the student exercises to stabilize the motor program and minimize the variability of execution. Blocked and random practices, as well as partial practice and feedback administration techniques are typical of this approach:

"An important question confronting the learner or instructor is how to sequence the practice at these various tasks during the practice session so as to maximize learning. Two variations have powerful effects on learning: blocked and random practice. Suppose that your student has three tasks (tasks A, B, and C) to learn in a practice session and that these tasks are fundamentally different, such as tennis serves, volleys, and ground strokes. That is, tasks are chosen such that one cannot argue that any of them are in the same class or use the same GMP. A commonsense method of scheduling such tasks would be to practice all trials of one task before shifting to the second, then to finish practice on the second before switching to the third. This is called blocked practice, in which all the trials of a given task (for that day) are completed before moving on to the next task. Blocked practice is typical of some drills in which a skill is repeated over and over, with minimal interruption by other activities. This kind of practice seems to make sense in that it allows the learners to concentrate on one particular task at a time and refine and correct it. Another practice scheduling variation is called random (interleaved) practice; where the order of task presentation is mixed, or interleaved, across the practice period. Learners rotate among the three sample tasks so that, in the more extreme cases, they never (or rarely) practice the same task on two consecutive attempts. …

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