Discuss the Role of Feedback in the Learning of Skills Essay Sample

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“Feedback is very much associated with guidance. In order to learn and develop skills both guidance and feedback are necessary.” (PE for Edexcel) Feedback is needed, along with good coaching, in the learning process of all skills associated with sport. Golfers need to be told (via external feedback) whether their swing is correct or not, in the same way as a footballer has to be instructed on the correct technique needed to continuously perform accurate and powerful volleys successfully. A performer gains feedback from their entire sporting environment. Feedback “informs an athlete about their performance during and following the movement” (Claire Haycock)

When commenting on feedback as an “essential component in the learning process of successful skills.” (www.teachpe.com), the timing of the feedback and the way in which feedback is given should be taken into consideration. Beginners (at the cognitive stage of learning) should be given a different form of feedback from those who are at a highly skilled, advanced level in the sport (autonomous performers). This is because autonomous athletes can and are willing to take criticism in order to achieve perfection, whilst beginners will get upset or disheartened if a criticism is made against them as the opening learning stage should be fun or keep the beginner interested. Feedback provides the performer and on lookers with information about the performance.

If a golfer, at the cognitive stage of learning, is failing to hit the ball in the desired direction, or even failing to hit the ball at all, then the novice should be given the appropriate feedback by their coach as to what they are doing wrong and show them the correct way it should be performed. This should be done in a constructive way using positive feedback, if it was given in a negative way using negative feedback, it may have a detrimental effect on the learners motivation to try and complete it successfully and eventually they may give up. “Responses followed by reward tend to be repeated, while those that are not (or that are punished) tend not to be repeated.” (Thorndike’s law of effect 1914)

Feedback will act as an incentive or motivation to a performer if given or received in the correct manner. “If children or beginners hear good things about themselves, they’re more likely to feel good about themselves too. Positive feedback in sport is essential. It can come from coaches, fellow players, spectators.” (www.cd.gov.ab.ca/index.asp) Positive feedback is essential for beginners as the player then knows what to repeat the next time they perform it. An example would be a badminton player performs a smash and is told that they have good power or technique. This is essential so the beginner can change their current schema and adapt it to their new found knowledge e.g. a footballer will adapt his schemata of a pass to feet because of the feedback he received, he knows he can strike the ball well but must keep his head over the ball to stop him getting height or loft on it. “If the kind of performance given is correct, it will improve performance” (www.teachpe.com)

Guidance (as mentioned in the above) reinforces feedback. “There is a subtle difference between feedback and guidance. Feedback is what the performer did. Guidance is how the performer can improve.” (www.teachpe.com) “Visual learning during the cognitive phase helps the learner to develop a mental image of the task.” (Claire Haycock) This is shown when the children will require or expect a demonstration by their PE teacher or coach before attempting the task or skill like a serve in tennis or badminton. Also, verbal guidance should be used in order to explain, describe and evaluate the skill. For example a coach could describe performing a low shot by saying ‘keep your eye on the ball. Don’t try to hit it too hard and as you strike it, make sure you don’t lean back and keep your head and knee over the ball.’ These two forms can be related to concurrent feedback which is “gathered during the performance of the skill” (PE for Edexcel).

Another form of guidance is manual or mechanical guidance. This form of guidance “involves physically moving or restricting the performer.” (PE for Edexcel) This form of guidance can either involve ” physically manipulating the performer into the correct position so they gain the ‘muscle memory’, or kinaesthetic awareness of how the skill should feel.” (PE for Edexcel) Examples of this could be moving a golfers feet so they are shoulder width apart and the knees are bent slightly, or performing the correct swing action with them so they grasp the concept of how it should feel. This method of guidance would work very well with the terminal method of feedback as the coach can see what’s wrong after the performance and physically correct it.

All three types of guidance demonstrated together can become confusing for cognitive learners as it is a lot of information to take in at once. They need to observe the coach’s demonstration whilst trying to make sense of what they are saying, and so on.

When discussing the role of feedback in the learning of new skills, the required feedback method for the different stages of learning must be discussed, along with the method you will teach them.

There are three distinctive stages of learning/ability levels in sport. The first one is the cognitive stage, this is the “initial stage of learning and is essential if the learner is to progress successfully through the other stages and is to move to a stage where the skill can be performed consistently well.” (PE for Edexcel) This stage requires visual guidance or a mental picture of the skill in order to be able to establish the key requirements. They will then work through a complete mental performance of the skill. Then they will attempt to perform the skill. “If the skill is to be learned successfully, the mental picture must be correct. If not, the skill will develop incorrectly.” This stage (as mentioned before) needs high levels of positive external feedback for the performers to learn and enjoy themselves. An example would be a golfer watching a correct swing and will mentally store the positioning of feet, acceleration of the club head through the ball etc and produce a correct mental picture.

The second phase is the associative stage. In this stage “patterns of coordination are learnt, motor programmes begin to be laid down in the brain.” (www.felpress.co.uk/peglossary.htm) This all stems from the information learned and practised in the previous stage. In this stage the learner will practice the new skills acquired in the first stage. For example a badminton player will practice the drop serve or smash “in order to understand what they are performing correctly and what needs to be changed” (PE for Edexcel). Verbal guidance and extrinsic/concurrent feedback will be used more in this stage.

Autonomous stage is the third stage of learning. “The movement has been learned, and the performer has time to think about tactics, strategies, style, expression, and the fine tuning of skills.” (www.felpress.co.uk/peglossary.htm) The performer can process the information quickly, because of experience the time between the input, processing and output (or decision) is very short. Example, a footballer can read the situation quicker, he can anticipate (from experience) when and where a through ball will be played so he can react and intercept it. “Not all performers reach the autonomous stage in all skills. For those who do, if practice isn’t maintained, reversion to the associative stage will occur.” (PE for Edexcel)

Feedback is one of the most important factors in the whole learning process. The way feedback is given and the timing of it can have huge effects on beginners. It has less and less effect on moral of the participant as their skill level increases. This is because athletes are willing to take criticism in order to achieve perfection. I feel I have gained evidence from a variety of sources to suggest the cognitive stage needs high levels of positive external feedback in the reciprocal style of teaching in order to benefit the most, this way the performer/s doesn’t become de-motivated and they still have the determination and hunger to proceed to the next level. “All methods of guidance and feedback has advantages and disadvantages depending on the skill and the learner. Often a combination of methods is the most beneficial and enables the skill to be developed efficiently” (PE for Edexcel)

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