Learning styles: The explicit truth
Posted by Dean Holden at April 15th, 2013
by Simon Nainby, 5 April 2013
Maintain a neutral lumbar spine, extend the ankles, knees, hips, and keep your arms long you ‘orrible little man!
Learning styles have become a buzz phrase in coaching recently with many National Governing Bodies adding content to their coaching courses which suggests a need to section athletes according to whether they learn best by Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic methods.
However, there are is an increasing body of evidence that refutes the theory and this video (by a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist no less!) sums up the problems with VAK learning styles well.
So, unsurprisingly, the task will dictate the dominant learning style – sports skills should predominantly be presented in kinaesthetic and visual styles whereas learning to speak French would mainly be auditory. Trying to group athletes by these learning styles is not only a waste of time but potentially harmful for their development if you are trying to talk them through a skill because a written test identified them as an auditory learner when what they really need is to attempt it!
National Governing Bodies seem to have bought in to this heavily and a Coach recently told me that the learning style questionnaire was the first activity they did on the Coach Educator course for his sport. Hopefully they are all critical thinkers who will see the problems associated with this………
The truly ridiculous thing is that there are two proven learning styles that every coach should be made aware of yet hardly any coaching courses reference despite the fact that the coaching methods they teach rely heavily on one of these methods in particular.
Explicit and Implicit Learning
- Explicit learning is characterised by:
- A large set of rules and knowledge of how to perform a skill
- Conscious processing of these rules by the athlete
- The athlete is able to explain, when questioned, how a skill is performed
- Implicit learning is characterised by:
- Subconscious learning of skills
- Lack of verbal instructions
- The athlete is unable to explain, when questioned, how a skill is performed
The methods used in every coaching course I have attended sit heavily in the explicit learning style and on first glance this appears the sensible approach as it provides a methodical approach to teaching and subsequently checking for understanding or learning by the athlete. Giving rules to follow prior to and during practices or games (coaching cues) and questioning afterwards where the athlete is expected to repeat back said cues are explicit methods that most coaching courses espouse.
Implicit learning is far more difficult to implement as it requires critical and creative thinking to shape the training environment in order to produce the desired movement outcome and makes it hard for the coach to assess how much the athlete has learnt due to the blurring of lines between motor performance and motor learning. An example of implicit learning would be an athlete performing hill sprints or jumping backwards prior to a sprint which will naturally put them into an inclined body position suitable for accelerations rather than telling them what to do. This video gives a good explanation.
…For the rest of Simon’s article, please go to his website here!