Critically evaluate how theories of motor learning and motor control place varying degrees of importance upon feedback and emphasise different types of feedback.
Research on motor learning and control has been debated for many years. According to Schmidt & Wrisberg (2007, 5), Franklin M. Henry (1904-1993) was one of the pioneers of motor skill research in the laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Some of his students, including Richard Schmidt, whose work is discussed in this essay, went on to develop their own theories and lead enquiry into the motor skill field (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2007).
How we acquire motor skills, for example voluntary movements of the limbs, body and head, is the study of motor learning and motor control. This is achieved by the state of our “neuromuscular system” (Magill 2007, 3). Motor skills are produced through practice and become part of the long-term memory through repetition of skills (Wilmerding & Krasnow 2009).
Edward Thorndike (1874-1949), was considered to be one of the early researchers into the effects of stimulus-response in motor skill learning (Salmoni 1989, 197). Thorndike’s Connectionism is one of the models of motor skill learning which this essay will discuss in terms of how feedback impacts learning and what type of feedback can be considered in each case.
An example of learning a motor skill
A dance teacher working with a student wants to improve the execution of an assemblé dessus. First she decides to take the student back to the barre to focus on the action of the leg as it quickly slides to the side from the demi-plié, while simultaneously pushing off the supporting leg, then joining (assembling) the feet in the air in 5th position (Royal Academy of Dance 1997, 83). The use of the barre provides an aid in learning, to help the student control the speed of the step, assisting with stability in the upper body. The student may improve her technical understanding of the step in several ways: through attention, focus and observing the teacher demonstrate the step (Krasnow & Chatfield 1996). Other ways include execution, feedback from the instructor and further repetition (Krasnow & Chatfield 1996); although repetition in itself does not always improve performance and may depend on whether feedback is given (Wilmerding & Krasnow 2009, 3).
What is feedback?
Feedback aids the student by giving them information on the state of their performance or actions (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2007). There are two types of feedback: intrinsic and extrinsic, which is also known as augmented feedback (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2007, 285).
Intrinsic feedback is the “sensory-perceptual information that is a natural part of a performing skill” (Magill 2007, 332). This is information received through the senses. In the above teaching example, intrinsic feedback could be received visually, as the student observes the instructor demonstrate the correct execution; auditory, as she hears the sound of the foot swish against the floor before the jump and through proprioception, by feeling the forefoot push into the floor.
Augmented or external feedback provides additional information to the student which they are unable to detect intrinsically, usually through an instructor or another external source such as video (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2007, 286). Instructors will need to decide if augmented feedback is warranted depending on how complex the skill is and think about the experience of the learner by questioning are they beginners, or more advanced in their skill-set (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2007, 295)? The response would then determine the type of training and feedback utilised, however the instructor also needs to make a comparison between knowledge and actual skill for example:
A novice given complete information on how to ski, a set of decision rules, and then launched from a mountain top would most likely end up in...
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