The Autonomous Phase

In 1967 Fitts and Posner suggested that the learning process is sequential and that we move through specific phases as we learn. You don’t just learn in one phase, which makes you an expert. You would need to progress through the phases to improve and learn new skills. You also need the experience to become an elite athlete; “Learning is a more or less permanent change in performance brought about by experience” Knapp, 1973. They believe that each motion in the sport must be perfected before moving on to harder motions so that you do not complete the skill incorrectly and make it into a bad habit.

It doesn’t rely on the principal “Practise makes Perfect” as much as ” perfect practise makes perfect. ” For example, in football learning to just kick a ball and practising that, might not mean that it’s the correct technique to kick. So without the right technique it would not be as effective in a game situation. Once the skill has been perfected then the athlete can move on to the next stage. In certain phases the athlete would receive feedback and also they would need to rehearse the skill regularly and correctly. I personally think their theory works well because it is so easy to apply. It can easily be taken to any sport and used.

Some people don’t believe it works because it depends on the way the feedback is applied and the activities used to teach the performer the skill. If the skill is taught badly then they will not be able to progress to the next stage of learning. If the skill is taught for too long the performer will lose interest and may not wish to learn the skill correctly and therefore will not be able to move on. Like in gymnastics, if the performer is taught how to do the movement for too long, then it’s more then likely that they will lose interest in the routine and if made to perform it, will not be of a high standard.

The coach has to learn the tedium threshold of the performer and make sure this is not reached. If the correct feedback is not used then the performer can get confused about what they should be doing and not be able to complete a certain component of the skill and therefore will not be able to complete the overall skill, meaning they can’t move on. For example a serve and volley in tennis, they may be able to complete the serve, they then may be able to move into the net and get in the position to volley.

This stage is when the athlete is a beginner to this specific skill and so they would have to go through the skill slowly and simply depending on their personal rate of learning and ability. Cognitive meaning a specialized thinking or conscious mental process, it is the initial stage of learning and if the athlete wants to progress through the next stages then it is essential. The most important factor of this stage is to form a perfect mental image of the specific skill that the athlete will need to complete. The athlete would need to gather information about the skill from a variety of sources e.

g. explanations of how to do the skill, pictures, videos or watching an athlete complete the skill in a competition. In gymnastics for example watching a gymnast carry out a forwards roll would give the beginner athlete a picture of what the requirements would be. They can run through the order of the skill in their minds to get a clear picture, once they feel confident with what they need to do they would attempt the skill. Even though this phase is mainly about the athlete’s mental picture, feedback is also very important from a coach or trainer.

The coach would tell the athlete what they are doing well and what needs improvement. By telling them this, the athlete can alter the mental picture in their minds into the correct format. Once their mental image is correct they will perform the skill well and will be able to progress onto the next stage. Simpler skills would take less time to perfect, as they would not be as detailed. Visual guidance is key in this phase, as you watch what somebody is doing you tend to try and copy them e. g.

In a 100m sprint when you are at the start line and the athlete next to you bends down to do a track start you might follow their example to give you an advantage. Associative phase This is the second part of Fitts and Posners learning phases. During this stage the learner will practise the skill, according to the information that they gathered during the cognitive stage. During this stage the performer will become more aware of their mistakes and they will also make a great improvement. Fewer errors are made in this stage and the performer is ready to learn harder and more complex techniques and is able to perform some efficient movements.

Also, the motor programme develops and so does anticipation of the performer and the performer learns to monitor their own feedback. This stage is mainly based on practising the skill over and over again, as well as verbal guidance and feedback. “The need for information feedback in improving and sustaining performance, or in three repeatedly demonstrated empirical effects: performance fails to improve unless information feedback is introduced; performance improves with information feedback; and performance either deteriorates if information feedback is withdrawn, or shows no further improvement.

” (I. McD. Bilodeau, 1969). If the athlete is still performing the skill incorrectly it may be necessary for them to return to the cognitive stage to perfect the mental image of the skill. An example of the associative stage in practice would be a basketball player would be able to take quick 3-point shots, dribble with two balls and make all different kinds of passes. Autonomous phase Autonomous meaning independent and having the power to make your own decisions is the third and the last in the sequence.

When and if the athlete reaches this stage they will perform the skill with little or no conscious thought of what they need to do and so are able to focus more on the tactical side of the skill and how they can use it in a competition, e. g. a cricket bowler would be able to bowl the ball fast but may put spin on it so that it would be harder for the batter to hit. Not all athletes reach this stage, those who do are mainly elite athletes and professionals.

Even when an athlete reaches this phase they will have to practice the skills they have learnt to maintain their skill, otherwise reversion may take place and the skill they acquired might be lost. When you reach this phase the skill would have become part of your long term memory and are automatically produced in response to an appropriate stimulus. “An expert can represent problems in terms of their abstracts. This is easier method store and to represent problems” (Anderson. J. R, 1995).

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