The Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) Rocky Mountain Division held its annual Fall Training for its education staff. The staff consists of examiners and trainers from resorts in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and other western parts. This was the second time the event has been held at Loveland Ski Area.
At Fall Training, education staff members spend time reviewing operational procedures, changes to clinic and exam offerings, and this year's focus was on motor skill development. Using Fitts & Posner's three stages of learning, education staff members worked through the different stages: Cognitive, Associative, and Autonomous stages. The thinking behind this year's training was that trainers, instructors, and coaches can benefit by being able to identify where students are in this learning process. Where a student is in the learning stage helps craft the feedback he or she will receive.
What are the differences between the stages? When someone learns a new motor skill, they have to concentrate or think about what they are trying to do. As a result, movements are slow, inconsistent, and inefficient. For example, if you have ever tried juggling, it is hard to do at first and requires an immense amount of focus. The next stage is the Associative stage. If we stick with the juggling example, now you might be able to get the hang of juggling but as soon as you are distracted by something, you drop the balls you are juggling some of the time. In other words, it is difficult to carry on a conversation while juggling but sometimes you can do it. You are now in the Associative stage. The final stage is the Autonomous stage. Now you have enough experience where you could hold a conversation and do a variety of other things while you are juggling. The motor skills you need to juggle are automatic or "flow-like" and this enables you to make accurate movements that are consistent and efficient.
For more information check out Attention and Motor Skill Learning by Gabriele Wulf.