PE AQA AS Skill Acquisition



Skill: a learned ability to bring about a predeturmined result with maximum certainty, often with a minimul amount of time, effot or both. Types of skill...

Cognitive skill: involves thought proccesses and interlect.

Perceptual skill: involves the detection and interpritation of imformation from surroundings(enviroment).  

Moto skill: involves the phyisical movment and muscular controll

Characteristics of a skill:

  • a skill is learned 
  • a skill has an end result 
  • well learned skills are economic (energy efficient) and efficient movement

Classification of a skill can help coaches break down skill into individual steps 

Sports skills are usually perceptual & motor skills, together they are called PSYCHOMOTO SKILLS 

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To learn a particular skill you must have certain abilities that the skill relies upon.

For example: a handstand requires sufficient strength

 “An inherited relatively enduring trait that underlies and supports various kinds of motor and cognitive activates or skills, abilities are thought to be largely genetically determined.”


 Abilities are:

  • ·      Innate, genetically determined (we inherit them from parents and are born with them)
  • ·      Stable, abilities tend to remain unchanged; however can be effected by are experience and development


Skill is the application of ability; skills are learned using existing abilities.

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Gross motor & psychomotor abilities: (Fleishman)

Gross motor abilities involve movement and are related to physical fitness.

For example: Dynamic strength, stamina & explosive strength.

Psychomotor abilities involve the processing of information, the making of decisions and then putting these process into action.

For example: Multi limb coordination, reaction time & aiming. 

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Types of practise

Massed practice involves continuous practice without breaks or rest intervals.

  • ·      Good for gaining experience, reinforcing skills, & effective for motivated learners with high fitness levels.
  • ·      Ideal for simple discrete skills (basketball set shot)
  • ·      Causes fatigue
  • ·      Demotivation can lead to poor performance 

Distributed practice has rest intervals, rest provides mental and physical recovery and the opportunity for extrinsic feedback.

  • ·      Good for beginners, & learners with low levels of motivation or fitness.
  • ·      Ideal for continuous, complex & potentially dangerous skills.
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Types of practise 2

Fixed practice (skill drill) involves the repetition of a specific movement or pattern of movements in the same environment.

  • ·      Ideal for closed skills that require over learning (when a performer has already perfected the skill being learned but still carries on practicing, in order to strengthen motor programs and schemas)
  • ·      The environment never changes 

Varied practice involves the practicing of skills in many different environments.

  • ·      Ideal for open skills, allows development of schemas
  • ·      Allows for expanding of schemas, as performer learns to adapt to the environment, this information is then stored.

Mental practice the process of repeating a movement in mind without the physical movement occurring.

  • ·      Useful for the rehearsal of complex skills, especially in cognitive learning stages.
  •       Aid the reinforcement of successful movements, & the reduction of anxiety, increasinf confidence allowing focus on success
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Selective attention:


 The stages of learning (FITZ & POSNER)

1.     Cognitive learning, the first stage of learning, movement is jerky, demand of movement requires high attention & improvement is rapid.

2.   Associative learning, the middle and longest stage of learning, include the development of specific motor programs, rapid increase of consistency, timing and anticipation improvement, & the learner develops the ability to use kinesthetic feedback.

3.     Autonomous learning, final stage of learning, reduction in attention demand, habitual movement (automatic), emphasis on strategy & style.

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Types of guidance

There are 4 main types of guidance that can be used to aid the learning process, visual, verbal, manual & mechanical (VVMM)

Visual guidance:

  • ·      Used at all stages of learning, but especially for cognitive learning
  • ·      Vision is a dominant sense, we learn thought the imitation of what we have seen
  • ·      Useful for highlighting technical points, static displays can quickly become boring, loosing learners attention.
  • ·      Video footage can help form a mental picture for the skill
  • ·      Visual demonstrations must be accurate
  • ·      Key or complex points may need to be repeated
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Types of guidance 2

Verbal guidance:

  • ·      Often used along side visual guidance
  • ·      Should be clear and concise
  • ·      Thought to be more effective with advanced learners
  • ·      Teacher must make sure information was understood and retained
  • ·      The amount of information has to be limited
  • Complex skills can be difficult to describe 

Manual guidance:

  • ·      When the coach physically manipulates the learners body into the correct pattern of movement
  • ·      Allows the learner to get the feel of the movement without having to fully perform it themselves
  • ·      Useful in early stages of learning
  • ·      Limited value for experienced learner
  • ·      Does not give the learner the opportunity to experience and correct errors for themselves
  • ·      Difficult with groups of learners 
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Types of guidance 3

Mechanical guidance:

  • ·      The use of equipment to aid and support the learner. For example the use of a float in swimming
  • ·      Allows the learner to get the feel of the movement without having to fully perform it themselves
  • ·      Useful in early stages of learning
  • ·      Useful in improving confidence
  • ·      Important the mechanical guidance is removed as soon as possible so that learner does not become dependant upon it.
  • ·       Limited value for experienced learner
  • ·      Does not give the learner the opportunity to experience and correct errors for themselves
  • ·      Difficult with groups of learners 
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Information processing

Based on the theory that the brain works much like a computer

  • 1.   Input (what you see, know, feel)- stimuli entering the brain
  • 2.     The decision making process
  • 3.     Output- the response that occurs

 For example: catching a ball.

  • 1.     The ball, crowd, senses (input)
  • 2.     Speed and direction of ball (decision making)
  • 3.     Hands prepare to catch (output)

 Welford saw the processing elements within the brain as 3 sub-processors:

  • 1.     Perceptual (input) Stimulus identification
  • 2.     Translatory (decision making) Response selection
  • 3.     Effecter (output) Response programming 
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“ the capacity that allows organisms to benefit from their past experiences”

There are 3 main types of memory

  • 1.     Short term sensory store (STSS)
  • 2.     Short term memory (STM)
  • 3.     Long term memory (LTM)
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Reaction time


Reaction time: the time between the onset of the stimulus and the start of the movement in response to it.

Movement time: the time taken from the start of the movement to the completion of movement.

Response time: the time taken from the onset of stimulus to the completion of movement.

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Factors effecting reaction time


  • ·      If warning is given, expectation of stimulus leads to quicker reaction
  • ·      Intensity of stimulus, loud sounds or bright colours stimulate quicker reactions


  • ·      Age
  • ·      Gender
  • ·      Limb used
  • ·      Personality
  • ·      Alertness/Arousal/Motivation
  • ·      Body temperature
  • Sensory Systems 
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Single channel hypothesis

When receiving many stimuli from the environment, the brain can only deal with one

stimulus at any given time- this is know as a single channel as only one piece of

information can be dealt with at a time. This means one piece of information has to be

processed before the next piece can be dealt with. “bottle neck” 

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Hicks Law

Choice reaction time: in a sporting situation, a performer is faced with more than one stimulus and more than one response


The more stimuli the greater the reaction time.

Sporting implications say to outwit an opponent you should disguise intentions. 

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How to improve reaction time

  • ·      Practice
  • ·      Mental rehearsal
  • ·      Experience
  • ·      Improvement of physical fitness
  • ·      Concentration & the use of selective attention
  • ·      Motivation
  • Anticipation 
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Psychological refractory period

The delay caused by the ability of only being able to process one-piece of information at any one given point

Incorrect anticipation delays reaction time.

If we are processing one stimulus and another comes along, the refractory period is the delay between the onset of second stimulus and the processing onset of this second stimulus. 

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The information received by a performer, during or after the completion of a skill, feedback is essential in order to learn and develop skills, and feedback must be accurate, comprehensible and constructive.

 Feedback helps the performers confidence to improve, increase motivation, vital to learning as it detects and aids the correction of errors.

Good actions can be reinforced by feedback, to strengthen stimulus response bonds.

Feedback must be skill specific 

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Types of feedback

Positive feedback, given externally by coach to praise the performer upon completion of successful skill or activity.

Negative feedback, received when the movement is incorrect, can be external or internal.

Extrinsic feedback comes from an external source.

Intrinsic feedback, from a sensory source about the physical feel of the movement as it is being preformed. Intrinsic feedback comes through the internal properoceptors and kinesthesis.

Terminal feedback is received after the movement has been completed through an external source (form of extrinsic feedback)

Concurrent feedback is received during the performance of the skill.

Knowledge of performance, feedback that concerns the quality of movement, arises from kinaesthetic awareness. (intrinsic)

Knowledge of result, feedback about the outcome of the movement, given by coaches or as a result of watching recordings of the movement. (extrinsic) 

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Motor Programs

A motor program is the plan of a whole skill or pattern of movements, this plan is made up of generalized movements which are stored in LTM.

A executive motor program is made up of subroutines “the building blocks of overall motor programs” Subroutines are usually preformed in a sequence.

At the autonomous stage of learning the motor program has been over learned or grooved into the LTM

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