The Learning Environment

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The Learning Environment

Physical Environment

All factors external to the performer. While learning new skills the physical environment should be constant allowing the learner to concentrate on the skill at hand.

Training in conditions similar to the game or using equipment worn in the game will aid familiarity with the performance situation and minimise the effect of external factors that are outside the performer’s control.

Nature of the Skill

Movement tasks may be classified according to different criteria:

  • The stability of the environment (Open or Closed)
  • The precision of the movement (Gross or fine)
  • How distinctive the beginning and end points of the skill are – continual, serial or discrete.
  • The timing- externally paced or self paced

Open Skills

This is a skill that occurs in an unstable unpredictable environment. Eg’s of open skills include Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, and Basketball.

Closed Skills

This is a skill that is learnt in a stable, predictable environment. Eg’s of closed skills are gold, archery, weight lifting and synchronised swimming.

Gross Skills

Requires the use of large muscle groups for execution

Fine Skills

Require the use of small muscle groups to perform the movement.

Discrete Skills

Has a distinctive beginning and end that can be identified

Serial Skills

Involves a sequence of smaller movements that are assembled to make a total skill

Continuous Skills

Has no distinct beginning or end

Self-paced Skills

It is the athlete that determines the pace of the skill execution (self paced)

Externally paced Skills

The timing of the skill is not determined by the player

Practice Methods

As well as the physical environment the way individual practices a new skill will affect how quickly they learn it.

Massed vs. Distributed Practice

Mass Practice

Requires performers to take infrequent breaks between long periods of instruction and skill development routines.

Example of a runner who is running continuously without any long breaks.

Works best when athletes are:

  • highly motivated
  • Fresh
  • Unable to attend a number of sessions

Distributed Practice

Involves a broken practice session with intervals or rest on other activities in between practice intervals.

E.g. Doing some running training, and then doing some bike training.

Works best when:

  • Performer lacks interest
  • Task is difficult
  • Motivation is low
  • Task causes fatigue

Whole vs. Part Practice

Whole Practice

Involves the teaching or demonstrating of the entire skill as a whole. Some skills are best learnt doing it all together.

Part Practice

Involves the skill being broken down into smaller skills and learning them individually before putting them all together. Some skills are too complex to learn all at once


  • Refers to receiving information on how the skill was performed
  • Occurs at every stage of the process
  • May occur subconsciously or very consciously
  • Effectiveness of feedback dependent on the time available for feedback.
  • Too much feedback can have a negative effect
  • Performers may develop a dependence on the feedback
  • When feedback is withdrawn performance declines

Feedback has three functions:

  1. Reinforce what is done well
  2. Provide a basis for correcting aspects that need improvement
  3. Motivate for continued effort and improvement

Sources of Feedback

Internal feedback
  • Refers to when a person receives it form the sense inside the body
  • Movement is felt then sent to brain then adjustments are made to performance

E.g. A handstand, body sends message back to the brain regarding necessary modifications

External feedback
  • Is what you see and hear that is outside the body’s own senses.

E.g. Coach telling you stuff, getting assessment task back above 80%, hitting a ball and listening for the sound.

Types of Feedback

Knowledge of results (KR)
  • Provided externally after the completion of the action
  • The information about the outcome of the movement
  • It suggests how successfully the skill was performed
  • Particularly important during early stages of learning as it enhances performance during practice.

Knowledge of performance (KP)
  • Is information about the pattern of movement.
  • It gives feedback regarding the quality of execution of the skill.
  • This feedback may come from within or outside the body.

By combining KP and KR the success of skill execution will improve significantly

Timing of Feedback

Concurrent Feedback

Concurrent or current feedback is gained whilst performing a movement skill. It is simultaneous with the skill execution and is relayed throughout the body. E.g. Coach says throw a ball a bit higher

Delayed feedback

Is gained after the skill has been executed. Therefore it is too late to produce a response at the time.

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