Phases Of Learning

This section looks at the three stages of learner and descriptions of the tasks performers are expected to do at each stage.  (Equivalent to UK A Level Physical Education)

"Learning may be considered to be the more or less permanent change in performance associated with experience" Knapp (1973)

Three stages of learning have been identified:

  • Cognitive or Understanding Phase

In this stage of learning, performances are inconsistent and not success is not guaranteed. Performing the skill requires all of the athletes attention and so they rely on the coach for cues. This is a process of trial and error with a success rate of 2 or 3 out of 10 attempts. Correct performances must be reinforced through external feedback.

  • Associative or Verbal Motor Phase

Also known as the "practise phase". Performances are becoming more consistent as motor programmes are being formed. While the simpler parts of the skill now look fluent and are well learned, the more complex elements requires most of the spare attention. The athlete is starting to get a sense of internal 'kinaesthetic' feedback when they perform the skill well. They are starting to detect and correct their own errors and success rate has risen to 5-7 out of 10.

  • Autonomous or Motor Phase

In the final stage of learning, performances have become consistent, fluid and aesthetically pleasing. The motor programmes involved are well learned and stored in the long-term memory. There is now spare attention which can be focused on opponents and tactics. To retain the new skill at this level, it must be constantly practiced to reinforce the motor programmes. Success is now 9 out of 10.


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