The Most Effective External Focus Method For Enhancing Learning
(2013) The Most Effective External Focus Method For Enhancing Learning, no. 131.
Background and Purpose: The teaching of motor skill acquisition is a fundamental part of physiotherapy practice. The method by which motor skills are taught can greatly impact how effectively patients learn. External focus-based methods of learning have been shown to result in more effective motor learning and performance than internal focus-based methods, however, the type of external focus which optimises learning and is most practical remains unknown. Many motor learning studies involving healthy participants use skills that are not complex enough. This makes it difficult to draw comparisons to patients in a rehabilitative setting. The main purpose of this study was to investigate two methods of external focus; written instructions (WR) or learning by analogy (AN), and to determine if either method is more effective for learning a new complex motor skill (i.e. golf pitch) and to examine if transfer of learning occurs. Method: 14 participants were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups: AN (n=6) or WR (n=8). Both groups undertook a two week skill acquisition phase involving three supervised practice sessions and two unsupervised practices a week. Each supervised practice session involved performing 4 trials of 10 pitch shots (2 trials to a 15m target and 2 to a 20m target). The unsupervised practices involved swinging the golf club for 4 trials of 10 pitch shots without a ball. Participants were tested three times; before the intervention (PRE), at the end of the skill acquisition phase (POST) and one week after the POST test (RET). After the RET, participants were given a questionnaire to fill out on their learning experience of pitching. A split plot ANOVA was carried out to examine between and within- groups changes in performance accuracy. Results: Statistical analysis revealed that there was no significant difference between groups at PRE, POST and RET for the 10m (p=0.180) and 25m target (p=0.880). Neither group showed a significant improvement in pitch accuracy scores for the 10m target from PRE-POST, however there was a significant improvement in both groups for the 25m target from PRE-POST (p=0.012) (with a Bonferroni corrected adjustment level). There was no significant reduction in performance accuracy within both groups from POST-RET for both the 10m and 25m target. Data from the questionnaire revealed participants thoughts of the protocol and their relevant instructions for learning the complex skill. Conclusion: The results showed that neither the AN or WR instructions lead to superior performance accuracy. Both groups showed performance accuracy improvements and were effective in learning a new complex skill. Transfer of learning only partially occurred in both groups.