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Application Exercise:

Now, take a moment to read this short passage from a kinesiology textbook. Consider which strategies would best help students comprehend and remember essential information and concepts as a basis for further learning.

Fitts' Stage Theory of Motor Learning

The Second World War revived interest in processes of skill acquisition as governments in the United States and United Kingdom asked researchers to study methods for selecting and training military personnel. Due to pragmatic concerns, such as the ergonomic design of equipment and training of military skills, researchers adopted an overriding task-oriented approach that did little to shed light on processes of skill acquisition in humans (Schmidt & Lee, 2005). The emphasis on studying performance and learning in specific tasks resulted in knowledge on practical issues such as the optimal scheduling of practice and feedback delivery to enhance learning (e.g. amount, frequency, duration). Paul Fitts (1964) developed an influential model of skill acquisition that has received a great deal of support in subsequent textbooks and practical literature (e.g. Abernathy, 2001). His three-stage model describes learning as a continuous process with gradual changes in the nature of information processing as learning progresses.


Fitt's Three Stage Model

During the initial cognitive stage of Fitts' model, the learner is exposed to simple rules and verbal instructions to acquire basic understanding of the movement. At this stage, performance is variable and error-ridden as the learner experiments with different movement configurations. When the learner attains the following associative stage, movement patterns are refined and more consistent. Depending on the complexity of the task and the learner's abilities, this stage can require varying lengths of practice. Reaching the third autonomous stage requires extensive practice. At this stage the learner can perform the skill with minimal mental effort and few errors. As noted in the next chapter, much of the learning process inferred within Fitts' three-stage model has been attributed to the development and acquisition of information-processing abilities (Anderson, 1982) and the construction of relevant motor programs (p. 8).

Passage from Davids, K., Button, C., and Bennett, S. (2008). Dynamics of skill acquisition: A constraints-led approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.