`Fitts and Posner's` phases of learning.

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Gemma Brayne

Using your experiences from a team game, racket game and an individual activity to highlight the differences between different applications of the concepts and to provide examples to support your knowledge, complete the following question:

Describe `Fitts and Posner’s` phases of learning and explain how you would structure practises to enhance a performance

The Fitts and Posner’s stages of learning theory proposes that a performer will experience three progressive phases of development when learning a new skill. These three phases are:-

  • The cognitive phase of learning
  • The associative phase of learning
  • The autonomous phase of learning

        When a learner begins to acquire a new skill, they are confronted with some very specific, cognitively oriented problems. The first things that run through their heads will be….

  • What is the basic aim of this game?
  •  How do I score a point?  
  • What are the boundaries and positions for each player?
  • What is the best way to hold the racket, or bat, or club or ball?

Each of these questions indicates the basic and cognitive level at which the new performer is operating in the first stage of learning a new motor skill.  To account for this cognitive activity, Fitts and Posner labelled the first stage of learning a new skill the cognitive stage.  This stage is marked by a large number of errors in performance, and the nature of the errors being committed tends to be gross. For example, the beginning golf student gets the ball in the air sometimes, while dribbling it on the ground at other times. These results are due to some very gross errors made by the student during the golf swing itself.          

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The cognitive stage involves the performer gaining an understanding and creating a mental picture of the required action to form an exclusive motor programme. The theory suggests that this is the initial stage. Information is provided by the coach in the form of demonstrations, video footage, pictures, posters or verbal instruction. The performer receives extrinsic feedback from the coach, directing then towards a specific goal, as they have yet to develop a full understanding of the movement requirements. Although beginners may know that they are doing something wrong, they are generally not aware of exactly what should be from the coach doing differently ...

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