Teaching approach depends on skill level
Posted by Dean Holden at April 25th, 2013
Journal article by Nestor W. Sherman; JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, Vol. 71, 2000
Journal Article Excerpt
Vickers, Livingston, Umeris Bohnert, and Holden (1999) explored the effectiveness of two current, comprehensive teaching approaches in helping college students learn the baseball swing. A total of 249 undergraduates were randomly assigned to either (1) a behavioral training group that received simple to complex instruction, variable practice, and an abundance of feedback, or (2) a decision training group that received complex instruction, variable practice, and delayed, reduced feedback. The researchers pre-tested the hitting skills of participants in both groups and categorized them as novice, intermediate, or advanced.
Participants underwent four weeks of batting-cage training in which their task was to hit baseballs that were thrown at a speed of 58.4 miles per hour by a pitching machine. During week one, the behavioral training group received 50 minutes of instruction from an expert coach who demonstrated the basic components of a swing. This group performed each component in a simple-to-complex progression of drills, during which an abundance of feedback was given, and finished the day’s practice by hitting soft pitches into a net.
The decision training group listened to a 20-minute instructional audiotape, followed by a 30-minute videotape of an expert baseball player in action. The video footage showed the player swinging the bat in real time, in slow motion, with a stick-figure overlay, and with auditory augmentation upon contact with the ball. In addition, the video included views from the left, right, and behind the player, making it possible for the participants to observe the hitter’s technique and the characteristics of the pitch.
In all training weeks except week two, participants received variable practice by hitting two sets of 20 pitches from a pitching machine. Practice was considered to be variable since the ball was delivered to a different area in the strike zone each time.
During practices, the behavioral training group received abundant feedback while the decision training group received limited feedback. Week two consisted of two sets of 20 and one set of five pitches for the behavioral training group, while the decision training group received one set of 40 and one set of five pitches.
During the third and fourth training weeks, a video-feedback session on the swings that the participants had performed in weeks one and two was incorporated. Both groups were given a checklist of eight hitting cues. The behavioral group analyzed their swings relative to these cues and received extensive feedback on how to improve. The decision group performed a frame-by-frame comparison of their technique with that of a SyberVision model and received limited feedback.
After a one week break from training, the participants took a transfer test in which balls were pitched from the machine at speeds of 52.2, 58.4, and 64.6 miles per hour. In addition, hitting goals, bonus marks, and awards were given to simulate competitive conditions.
The results of the test revealed that both groups had improved upon their hitting skills since the pre-test. However, behavioral training was found to be more effective for novice hitters with regard to both acquisition and transfer, while the intermediate and advanced hitters in the decision training group outperformed their counterparts in the behavioral training group on the transfer test.
These results suggest that the most effective learning environment for novices involves instruction presented in a simple-to-complex progression that incorporates variable practice and provides students with an abundant amount of feedback. However, a learning environment that incorporates complex instruction, variable practice, and limited feedback is more effective in preparing intermediate and advanced learners to perform skills in new and challenging conditions such as those presented in competition. It should be noted that this latter finding does not seem to hold true during the learning period itself; motivational techniques must be used to assure intermediate and advanced learners that the end result of such training will be improved performance.
Abstracted by Cheryl Coker, an assistant professor at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003.
Vickers, J. N., Livingston, L. F., Umeris-Bohnert, S., & Holden, D. (1999). Decision training: The effects of complex instruction, variable practice, and reduced delayed feedback on the acquisition and transfer of a motor skill. Journal of Sport Sciences, 17(5), 357-367.