The transfer of learning from play practices to game play in young adult soccer players
Posted by Dean Holden at March 20th, 2013
Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Background: Physical educators and coaches face an ongoing problem of presenting fun and enjoyable practices that also provide efficient learning of technical and tactical sports skills. Effective instruction also promotes the transfer of learning from practice tasks to the real game. Play Practice (PP) describes a structure for teaching sports that addresses these problems through the development of closely aligned practice tasks that replicate the demands of the game while maintaining the critical aspect of play. Similarities exist between PP and the widely researched Teaching Games for Understanding approach, but PP proposes teaching technique and tactics simultaneously. This study was the first to examine the assumptions of PP as a holistic approach to sport instruction.
Purpose: To examine the transfer of learning from closely aligned practices to game play in soccer. More specifically, one purpose was to measure the learning of specific tactical responses from participation and instruction in play practices. A second purpose was to measure the transfer of learning from practice to game play. Finally, this study measured the effect of the sequence of presentation of two closely aligned practices on learning and performance in soccer.
Setting: Two coeducational soccer classes in the Basic Instruction Program at a large University in the Midwest United States. Each class met once or twice a week during the spring term for a total of 14 sessions.
Participants: Six participants; one male and two female students were selected from each class on the basis of their low to moderate soccer playing ability.
Intervention: An experienced teacher and soccer coach instructed both classes on how to perform effectively in attacking situations with more attackers than defenders (attacking overloads). The same 2v1 and 3v2 play practices were used in both classes to provide opportunities to learn the appropriate tactical responses. In each class session, the 2v1 or 3v2 practice was immediately followed by a 4v4 game to assess the transfer of learning from practice to game. Class One participated in 2v1 practices prior to the 3v2, while Class Two participated in the reverse sequence.
Research design: A multiple treatment, single subject design was used to assess the effect of the Play Practices and their sequence on the learning and performance of each participant in the two soccer classes. This design allows sequence effects on the learning of participants to be both demonstrated and explained. A-B-C-A and A-C-B-A designs were used in Class One and Class Two respectively.
Data collection and analysis: All overload play practices and 4v4 games were videotaped and each participant’s percentage of correct responses was recorded. Baseline (condition A) for both classes consisted of 4v4 games prior to any overload practice and instruction. In Class One, baseline was followed by the 2v1 (B) and then the 3v2 (C) conditions. For Class Two, the baseline was followed by the 3v2 (C) and then the 2v1 (B) conditions. Each condition comprised four sessions. The final A condition consisted of two games in each class, which provided a measure of the maintenance of learning. As a single subject design study, data were analysed from their graphical representation and visual inspection.
Findings: Instruction via these play practices was successful for the most able participants, who learnt to perform the appropriate tactical responses consistently in practice, which transferred effectively to the game. While the instructor was confident that all participants knew the appropriate responses, the less able participants were unable to perform these with consistency during practice, hence minimal transfer to the game occurred. Data from three participants indicated that the 3v2 practice tended to produce a greater transfer to the game but the sequence of practice presentation did not appear to impact learning.
Conclusions: Findings suggested that practice performance beyond 70% correct was required before learning would transfer to other settings. Launder’s notion of alignment was extended to include subtle variations within a practice task to replicate the full range of situations that arise in a game. The need for timely and accurate feedback for the efficient learning of each novice performer was highlighted from video replay. Research to address this common problem of group instruction to prevent the practising of small but significant mistakes is needed.
Thanks to Shane Pill for originally posting a link to this article! @pilly66