Juggling Motor Skill

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Introduction

To better understand learning, the research and experimentation was conducted by a student. The purpose of this study was to examine a novice learner performing a skill, in which improvement, retention, consistency, adaptability and stages of learning would be tested. The individual chose juggling three beanbags for the skill to be learned. The subject had to learn how to juggle three beanbags at once using both hands. Practice was completed in one way to keep consistency; this included throwing small beanbags standing up in the same room. Hypothesis of the experimenter suggested greatest improvement of skill in the beginning to middle of testing. Learning would be accomplished. An increase in practice time and intensity would need to occur for additional improvement.

Putting learning into perspective, “Fitts and Posner Theory” will help explain three basic stages of learning; verbal-cognitive, motor-associative, and autonomous. Verbal-cognitive is the earliest stage of learning. Characteristics of the novice stage include: high concentration during movement, fatigue which reduces degrees of freedom and performance, the learner needs feedback and correction, and verbal cues are often necessary for learning. The second stage of learning, motor-associative, is where performance is most improved. Characteristics of this stage include: feedback is acknowledged, but cannot be physically corrected, fundamental movements are established, degrees of freedom are increased, and diversification of skill is completed to improve learning. The last stage of learning, according to “Fitts and Posner’s theory”, is the autonomous stage. Learning is unconscious, which means cognitive thought is not needed when completing movement. Other characteristics of the autonomous stage include: exploiting degrees of freedom, focusing on the most relevant stimuli, and error correction. Three stages of learning are accomplished in progressive order with the first two stages attainable in a matter of days or weeks, while the last stage often takes years to achieve.

Research showed the individual went through the first two stages of learning. During the beginning baseline session, first stage of learning was evident because when the beanbags were tossed or thrown towards the other hand inaccurately, it caused inconsistent scores. With practice, the student progressed to the second stage of learning. Juggling became more accurate, easier, and scores improved. Recognition of errors became apparent because written evidence by the individual stated error detection, but individual did not know how to make physical correction. The student felt more comfortable with juggling motion and became confident in ability. After practice session 6, results plateaued and showed individual performance unable to increase unless practice habits intensified.

Four ways to measure motor learning were administered to understand test results. First, the student plotted performance curves on graphs to observe improvement. Second, retention of skill was measured to decrease performance variables and to measure persistence of skill across time. Third, transfer of skill was used to obtain skill adaptable results. Learner was able to transfer skill of juggling beanbags to apples. Fourth, statistics were calculated to find standard deviation, which showed consistency of skill learning.

Methods

To complete the juggling experiment, the student used the same three beanbags to perform the skill. All sessions were performed in the same room with closed windows and closed door to prevent environmental distractions. The number of catches were counted as measurements and errors were non catches. Measurements were accurate each baseline, retention, practice, transfer and performance sessions of experiment.

The independent variable was practice. Learner tried to keep throwing motion and hand motion the same for...
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