Also Known as the Novice Phase – Also Known as the Novice Phase

Stages of learning consider the process of how a performer transitions from an unskilled novice to an expert for a given motor skill. This might exist a child learning to catch a ball, a beginner learning to serve in Tennis, or a skill athlete transitioning from intermediate to advanced stages of learning.

As an athlete practices a skill nosotros run into a progression in their success and the motion pattern they use to perform the skill.

For case, when nosotros observe a child throwing a ball, over time they tin can throw the ball further and their throwing activeness becomes more fluid. Stages of learning theories aims to explain the processes that underpin this progression in performance.

Fitts & Posner’southward (1967) three stages of motor learning is the most well-known theory. Below nosotros will summarise the key stages and concepts from Fitts and Ponser’s piece of work and explicate how this concept tin can be applied to your coaching.

The Fitts and Posner 3-phase model

Fitts and Posner’s stages of learning theory considers the attentional demands when learning a new skill and the corporeality of practice fourth dimension required to reach each stage. Although we often interruption the model down into 3 distinct phases, in exercise, performers fluidly shift up the continuum. It is likewise possible for an athlete to backslide down the stages likewise.

The three stages of learning

The three distinct phases of learning include ane) the cognitive stage, two) the associate (also called intermediate) phase and the 3) autonomous stage. Below we will provide more detail on each stage.

Cognitive stage of learning

The first phase is called the cognitive stage, also known as the novice phase of learning. During this phase of learning the performer is trying to piece of work out
what to do. The theory suggests learners attempt to cognitively understand the
of movements.

Imagine nosotros have an athlete learning to serve in Tennis. To begin with the novice has to concentrate very hard, attending to many, if non all aspects of the serve. The amount of information that are trying to process can see overwhelming:

  • Agree do I hold the noise?
  • Where should my feet be?
  • How should I move my artillery?
  • How do I fourth dimension the motion?
  • Where am I hit to?
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The questions to a higher place highlight the self-talk that might be going on inside an athlete’s caput when learning to serve. At this phase we await performers to be inconsistent and make many mistakes. They will also be actively taking function in problem-solving and trying to brand sense of the job.

The section higher up gives you a good idea why this stage is chosen the ‘cognitive stage of learning’. Cognitive – meaning mental process, knowing learning and understanding things.

Fortunately, improvements in performance are quite quick at this phase and performance gains can be made with less exercise than at subsequently stages of learning.

Associative/intermediate phase stage of learning

During the associative stage the performer is learning
how to perform the skill
well and
how to adapt the skill. At this stage the performer is attempting to translate declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge. In other words, the performer is transformingwhat to practise
into how to exercise it.

There is less self-talk during the associate stage, and the athlete can perform chunks of the skill with less thought, but performing the motion equally a whole even so requires cerebral thought and problem solving.

When inbound the associative stage of learning our Tennis player would begin to extract cues from their environment. This might include where their opponent is positioned and the height of the net on their desired ball-target line. These cues are used to create the optimum movement (known equally perception–activeness coupling).

Aspects of the ball toss and arm movement may exist performed with less thought, but timing the sequence of these deportment still requires attention and problem solving. As a consequence, operation is ameliorate than in the cognitive stages of learning, but the performer still creates greater levels of variability in shot result compared to an expert performer.

This acquaintance phase of learning can continue for varying periods of time, depending on the complexity of the chore and volume of do. Some performers may never progress past this stage if they practise not invest heavily in skill development. Other elite performers (autonomous stage) may revisit the cognitive and associative stages to re-learn or refine their skill to attain higher levels of performance in the time to come.

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Autonomous stage of learning

At the autonomous stage the skill is almost automatic to produce and requires minimal thought. At this stage athletes require less witting control of movements and the deportment produced often experience effortless (see internal model theory as to why this phenomena occurs).

The reduced attentional demands at this stage permit the performer to focus more on perceptual cues, such as where their Tennis opponent is within the court.

At this stage performers tin also produce the movement alongside other demanding tasks, as their attentional chapters is no longer needed to control the action. For example where they need to move to afterwards their serve to be prepared for the return shot.

Summarising Fitts and Posner’s 3 stages of motor learning

Motor learning [link to new commodity] is circuitous and can be considered from many perspectives. Fitts and Posner’southward theory considers motor learning from an data processing approach – that is they consider how the human body adapts and learns to process data during the learning procedure.

This arroyo is useful, merely does neglect other motor learning considerations. Such as, the biomechanical changes we observe (see Bernstein’south theory), the changes in perception and visual cues (run into Gibson’due south theory) and neural substrates of motor learning (see Wolpert’s work.)

Why should I acquire theories of motor learning?

Our job in sport scientific discipline and coaching is to assistance athletes go improve. Motor learning theory allows us to understand that process. Motor learning theories help us evaluate the athlete and support evidence-based practise to develop an athlete – see some of the examples beneath.

How can I use this as a omnibus / practitioner / athlete?

Fitts and Posner’south theory is a footling outdated for fully explaining how the body controls movement. However, the basic concepts are still useful in exercise.

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When coaching beginners, yous should be aware that performing the skill will take up most or all of their attention. They are trying to brand sense of the task and how best to perform it.

At this phase you should try to keep the skill basic, limit variations in the task and limit distractions from the environment. For example, when teaching a kid to take hold of a ball, stay the same distance abroad, use a big, colourful ball and get rid of any distractions. These changes will reduce the amount of thinking and problem-solving required.

Every bit the child improves and moves towards an associative/intermediate stage we can go on to use the framework to develop our exercise. Nosotros could add in variability to our practice and/or have two or three throwers that the child may need to pay attention to. These changes require additional attention, as there is more than information to be processed.

The two examples to a higher place are very simple means nosotros can utilise Fitts and Ponser’s stages of learning theory to blueprint effective practice environments.

Other theories of motor learning

If you are interesting is learning more, check out dynamical systems theory, Bernstein’s degrees of freedom theory and Gentile’southward ecological learning theory.

Further reading

  • Fitts, P. and Posner, M.I. (1967)
    Human being Performance. Brooks/Cole Publishing, Belmont, CA.
  • Huber, J. (2013) Applying Educational Psychology in Coaching Athletes
  • Utley, A. (2018) Motor Command, Learning and Development: Instant Notes, 2nd Edition

Page Reference

If yous quote data from this folio in your work, then the reference for this folio is:

  • Shaw, Westward. (2020)The Three Stages of Learning. Available from: [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy]

Will Shaw bio pic

Will Shaw PhD, MSc

Will is a sport scientist and golf game professional person who specialises in motor command and motor learning. Volition lecturers part-time in motor command and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider Uk and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and functioning.

Also Known as the Novice Phase