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Chapter 16 Summary


  • Knowledge about skills has come from a variety of scientific disciplines and can be applied to many settings, such as sport, physical education, industry and physical therapy.
  • A skill is usually defined as the capability to bring about an end result with maximum certainty and minimum time and energy.
  • Motor skills have been defined as skills in which physical movement is required to accomplish the goal of the task.
  • In skilled performance many different components are involved. These include perceptual or sensory processes, decision-making and movement output.
  • Skills may be classified along numerous dimensions, such as: open and closed, discrete, continuous and serial, motor and cognitive. These classifications are important because the principles of skill and their learning often differ for different categories.
  • It is important to remember that these are just descriptive theories – they really explain very little, and often much of what we deal with fits poorly in to these categories, the usual solution to this is to add ever more categories until ‘it’ (the classification system) ‘works’.

  • Learning produces an acquired capability for skilled performance.
  • It results from practice or experience, is not directly observable, is inferred from performance changes and produces relatively permanent, not transitory changes.
  • Performance curves are plots of individual or average performance against practice trials. They can either increase or decrease with practice, depending on the particular way the task is scored.
  • The law of practice suggests that improvements are rapid at first and much slower, later. This is a nearly universal principle of practice.

    Individual differences in skilled performance
  • Individual differences in skilled performance are always stable from one attempt to another attempt, endure over time (persist) and are not necessarily indicated by skill differences on one single trial.
  • Skills are easily modified by practice, countless in number, and represent the particular capability to perform a particular activity.
  • Abilities are genetically defined, essentially unmodified by practice or experience and trait like.

    Motor ability
  • Whilst the idea that there is some kind of general motor ability to learn is a seductive one there is little evidence to support it.

    Motor skill development
  • Motor skills development always follows an invariant order or pattern, so we literally cannot run before we walk.
  • Cognitive, social and physical aspects often operate together.
  • This development is in a cephalocaudal direction (head to feet) and also in a proximodistal direction (midline to extremity).
  • We are usually born with reflexes which are then further developed. This leads to voluntary movement and increased independence.
  • There are some cross-culture differences in the rates of change but not in the order.
  • We develop manipulative skills which develop into more specialized skills.

    Gender differences
  • Gender differences have been demonstrated in the performance of motor skills.
  • These can be seen through the stages of motor development.
  • In pre-pubertal children the physical differences are small but these differences seem to increase after puberty.
  • Some of these differences can be explained by physical differences but some researchers feel that these are not as important as social and cultural factors which tend to treat the genders differently to the detriment of girls’ sporting achievements.