The Rocky Mountain Division of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI-RM) held their annual Fall Training in Summit County and Loveland Ski Area at the end of October 2013.
This year's focus was motor skill development and using Fitts & Posner's three stages of learning. After all, skiing and snowboarding are motor skill sports! PSIA-AASI sometimes gets a bad wrap for introducing a new buzz word or a new acronym. This is due to the fact that they have introduced new terms, acronyms, and buzz words over time. This goes with the territory when people have tremendous experience and creativity in teaching others.
2013 Fall Training for the education staff (examiners and trainers) of PSIA-AASI-RM focused on increasing everyone's understanding of the stages that people go through in order to learn a motor skill. Skiing and snowboarding are motor skill sports and learning a new motor skill or a different movement pattern can be challenging, especially if you have been practicing or performing a certain movement pattern over time. Thus, by using Fitts & Posner's three stages of learning, education staff members can give specific feedback based on where a student is in his or her learning process. In other words, if trainers, instructors, and coaches can recognize where a student is in his or her learning process, they can tailor individual feedback that will help them move into the next stage of learning.
What is Fitts & Posner's three stages of learning? In 1967, these two people studied that people tend to go through three stages of motor skill learning: Cognitive, Associative, and Autonomous. In other words, when we are learning how to do something, we initially have to concentrate and think about what we are doing. This might look like a student in a ski school lesson looking down at his or her skis in order to make sure they are doing a task or movement correctly. The Associative stage sees movements that are more fluid, reliable, and efficient. A student does not have to think about what they are doing or concentrate as hard. For example, a student in a ski lesson might be able to hold a conversation with the instructor while performing the task. The third stage in Fitts & Posner's three stages is the Autonomous stage. Many people equate this stage to a "flow-like" state where students do not need to think about what they are doing. Instead, movements are accurate, consistent, and efficient. According to Gabriele Wulf, little or no cognitive activity is required.
By understanding where a student is in the learning process, instructors and coaches can tailor feedback more appropriately. If someone is concentrating and thinking about the movements he or she is currently making, asking them to think about more things could be detrimental to improvement. Instead, giving them simpler instructions like thinking about one thing to help them perform the task will help them anchor the motor skill they are currently working on learning.
For more information about Fitts & Posner's three stages of learning check out Attention and Motor Skill Learning by Gabriele Wulf.