Insights for Coaches from Learning Design

I have just returned from Bradys Lake in Tasmania.

I was there for a canoe slalom race that was part of the selection process for the Australian canoe slalom team.

Every time I go to a sport event I think about the relationships that athletes and coaches build to develop performances. In Donald Schon tradition I reflect in action and on action. I believe that I bring an educational approach to my own coaching and relationships with athletes and hope that I try to improve my coaching continuously.

At present I have a voracious appetite to learn more about the technical aspects of canoe slalom. I have never paddled a kayak and so my coaching of the sport is based entirely upon my real-time observation and an unequivocal commitment to athlete flourishing. Sometimes I fail miserably in both regards but I do have a philosophy that guides me, helps me to get back on track and bounceback.

I was thinking about this philosophy this morning when I received a link from Stephen Downes to Abhijit Kadle’s post on Learning Design Philosophy. In the post Abhijit suggests that:

Learning design is not just a science, it is an art. When the team works and generates effective learning designs, they are a result of a deep rooted instructional design philosophy.

Abhijit adds that:

We (Upside Learning) like to look at instructional design in two clear veins, the first is the philosophy of learning design – the beliefs and faith in models that underly everything we do in design. The second is the methodology, the method and process based on these models that allow us to consistently generate good designs for all our clients and their unique situation. The philosophy is what we imbibe, methodology is what we practice.

Abhijit discusses the influence of three instructional design theoreticians in forming this philosophy: Benjamin Bloom, David Merrill, and Robert Mager. Upside draw upon:

I enjoyed the serendipity of receiving Stephen’s link to Abhijit’s post and the relevance of Stephen’s comment in a discussion of best and worst learning experiences that:

The best learning I’ve ever done has been on my own, working through a hard problem, by reading and then writing, either text, or software, or derivations. This is also the hardest learning I’ve done; most of the people I could talk to don’t understand it well enough to explain it, and attempting to work it through leads to more confusion than clarity.

I think there are some great insights here for coaches. I am intrigued by how coaches develop insights into performance and have a sense of long-term progression. I am particularly interested in guided discovery as the foundation of athlete development and realise that in my own coaching this involves an interplay between philosophy and method.

Without the philosophy there is no compass for learning. Abjihit’s post has reminded me that I need to be very clear about the theoretical guides for my work.

It is marvelous that this opportunity arose because of the efforts of a resident of Moncton, New Brunswick to share a daily news feed!

Photo Credit

Bradys Lake, Central Tasmania

Lifted Up

High Touch Coaching

By one of those wonderful coincidences I was reading John Naisbitt’s High Tech High Touch when a colleague sent me news of research into touch, judgements and decisions. The combination of both writings sent me off on time travel and prompted me to think about coaching environments.

Background

In his discussion of High-Touch Time, Naisbitt points out that “People spoke of moments as fleeting, memories as lasting … Stories began with “Once upon a time” and we actually had a sense of what that meant.” He argues that in the last century there has been a move to High-Tech Time that is characterised by “lack of time, quick time, real time, deadline, check list, multitask, behind, finding time, making time, losing time, killing time, spending time, wasting time, on time, out of time, time frame, fast-forward.”

Naisbitt’s observations took me back to Jay Griffith’s sideways account of time.

Time is not found in dead clocks and inert calendars, time is not money but is life itself: in ocean tides and the blood in the womb, in every self-respecting player, in the land, in every spirited protest for diversity and every refusal to let another enslave your time, in the effervescent gusto of carnival; life revelling in rebellion against the clock.

It took me back also to a blog post I wrote two years ago Faster Than A Turnip? In that post I mention Al Monty’s observation that:

Kairological time has a different sense of movement compared to chronological time. For a rough comparison, contrast an urban with a rural day. In cities, where time is most chronological, your progree through the day is like an arrow, while the day of itself ‘stays still’, for time is not given by the day but is man-made, and defined by the working day or rush-hours. In a rural place, time moves towards you and is nature-given, defined by sun or stars or rainstorms. In this more kairological time, the future comes towards you and recedes behind you while may well stay still, standing in the present, the only place which is ever really anyone’s to stand in.

Touch, Judgement and Decisions

The prompt for this post was my colleague’s alert to a paper by Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera and John Bargh published in Science. The paper’s title is Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions. The abstract of the paper is:

Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical meansof information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physicaltouch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for thedevelopment of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual andmetaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the applicationof this knowledge. In six experiments, holding heavy or lightclipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hardor soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisionsformed about unrelated people and situations. Among other effects,heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, roughobjects made social interactions appear more difficult, andhard objects increased rigidity in negotiations. Basic tactilesensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitiveprocessing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments to investigate how objects’ weight, texture, and hardness might  influence unconsciously judgments about unrelated events and situations:

  • To test the effects of weight, metaphorically associated with seriousness and importance, subjects used either light or heavy clipboards while evaluating resumes. They judged candidates whose resumes were seen on a heavy clipboard as better qualified and more serious about the position, and rated their own accuracy at the task as more important.
  • An experiment testing texture’s effects had participants arrange rough or smooth puzzle pieces before hearing a story about a social interaction. Those who worked with the rough puzzle were likelier to describe the interaction in the story as uncoordinated and harsh.
  • In a test of hardness, subjects handled either a soft blanket or a hard wooden block before being told an ambiguous story about a workplace interaction between a supervisor and an employee. Those who touched the block judged the employee as more rigid and strict.
  • A second hardness experiment showed that even passive touch can shape interactions, as subjects seated in hard or soft chairs engaged in mock haggling over the price of a new car. Subjects in hard chairs were less flexible, showing less movement between successive offers. They also judged their adversary in the negotiations as more stable and less emotional.

One of the paper’s authors, Christopher Nocera, provides some background information to the research paper. He indicates that:

  • “Touch remains perhaps the most underappreciated sense in behavioral research. Our work suggests that greetings involving touch, such as handshakes and cheek kisses, may in fact have critical influences on our social interactions, in an unconscious fashion.”
  • “First impressions are liable to be influenced by the tactile environment, and control over this environment may be especially important for negotiators, pollsters, job seekers, and others interested in interpersonal communication.”
  • “People often assume that exploration of new things occurs primarily through the eyes. While the informative power of vision is irrefutable, this is not the whole story. For example, the typical reaction to an unknown object is usually as follows: With an outstretched arm and an open hand, we ask, ‘Can I see that?’ This response suggests the investigation is not limited to vision, but rather the integrative sum of seeing, feeling, touching, and manipulating the unfamiliar object.”

High Touch Coaching and the Coaching of High Touch

My own thinking about coaching environments is moving more and more to rich sensory experience that lets go of chronological time. I wondered about the sentence in the abstract “Physicaltouch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for thedevelopment of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual andmetaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the applicationof this knowledge.” I translated that as “we can modify the coaching environment to accelerate and transform learning.”

The paper prompted me to think about the environment we might create as coaches to support touch and feel. It encouraged me to think about the sequencing of training too. My concern is that with our preoccupation with volume, frequency and intensity in training we may lose the possibility to explore tactile and temporal stimuli. I wondered if in our creative approach to coaching we might use tactile tactics to provide the lift we associate and experience with taper.

The linking of touch, judgement and decision making offers coaches a great opportunity to reflect on the practice of practice. I think the combining of these with voice and suggestion enriches the guided discovery environments that coaches seek to create and develop.

Photo Credits

Free Floating

Fade to Black

Feedforward

Introduction

Over twenty years ago when I was researching my book Using Video in Sport (1988) I came across Peter Dowrick’s work on self-modelling. I have been fascinated by his work ever since.

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by D Sharon Pruitt. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

Background

Back in 1980 Peter Dowrick wrote a paper with C Dove entitled ‘The use of self-modeling to improve the swimming performance of spina bifida children’. You can download a copy of this paper from the Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis here. This is the abstract from that paper:

The use of edited videotape replay (which showed only “positive” behaviors) to improve the water skills of three spina bifida children, aged 5 to 10 years was examined. A multiple baseline across subjects design was used, and behavioral changes were observed to occur in close association with intervention. One child was given successive reapplications of videotaped self-modeling with continuing improvements. It appears that a useful practical technique has been developed.

In my book I noted that Peter Dowrick suggests that “the visible nature of most physical skills makes them a natural target for video intervention”.  The key message for me then and now is that:

Self-modelling functions more like feed-forward than feedback; subjects see themselves not so much as they were but as they might be. (My emphasis)

Peter Dowrick was an early adopter of video technology and for the past thirty years has been exploring his insights into learning.

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Photo source: The Edsel Show

In 1995 he and John Raeburn reported their work with  children with physical disabilities. In that paper they observe that:

One behavior was treated with video self-modeling and the other was videotaped without further intervention, resulting in a significant treatment effect. Self-model recordings were produced by planning and selectively editing two minutes adaptive-only behavior, which subjects reviewed on six occasions over two weeks for a total of 12 min intervention. Progress was confirmed one year later. The study supports the efficacy of self-modeling for selected behaviors of these children with physical disabilities, and suggests further investigation of structured video replay as an active agent of change.

(David Templin and Ralph Vernaccia explored the use of highlight tapes with music for training in basketball in 1995. Videotapes of each player’s best and most effective plays were supplemented by music and were viewed by the athletes throughout the competitive season. The note that “although a causal relationship between highlight videotapes and offensive field goal percentage was not established, the results did demonstrate a mean increase of 4.7% in overall field goal percentage for 3 of the 5 participants).

In 1999 he presented an analysis of 150 studies that examined the use of self modeling (mostly in the video medium) in a variety of training and therapeutic applications. This analysis is used “to argue for the recognition of learning from the observation of one’s own successful or adaptive behavior (or images of it) as a mechanism in its own right”. This 2007 review looks at 20 years’ of research in video modelling interventions in autism.

In 2006 Peter Dowrick et al wrote about feedforward in reading:

Video feedforward can create images of positive futures, as has been shown by researchers using self-modeling methods to teach new skills with carefully planned and edited videos that show the future capability of the individual. As a supplement to tutoring provided by community members, we extended these practices to young children struggling to read. Ten students with special needs participated in a multiple baseline intervention. Each received tutoring only, followed by tutoring plus video feedforward, another phase of tutoring only, and follow-up. Overall, reading fluency improved significantly for all students; in 9 out of 10 cases, rate of improvement was significantly greatest during feedforward. Other measures (e.g., word identification) confirmed student progress from most at-risk to mid-stream status. We conclude that video images of success with challenging materials may enhance the acquisition of reading skills.

Peter Dowrick’s doctoral research was published twenty years after the first commercially available reel to reel system video appeared in 1956. His doctoral thesis at the University of Auckland was Self-modeling: A videotape technique for disturbed and disabled children (1977). His work has continued through analogue video and on to digital video. This is a link to an early paper about creating a self model film (1979). His 1991 textbook A Practical Guide to Using Video in the Behavioral Sciences (New York: Wiley Interscience) has pride of place on my bookshelf. (This is a 1996 review of the book.)

Sport Literature

Some sport literature discussion of self-modelling includes:

  • Barbi Law and Diane Ste-Marie (2005)
  • Shannon Clark et al (2005)
  • Jamie Baker and Marc Jones (2006)
  • Shannon Clark and Diane Ste-Marie (2007)
  • This is an article about social play (2007)
  • Deborah Feltz et al (2008)
  • Eleni Zetou et al (nd)

Discussion

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by Garry Knight. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

When I first read Peter’s thoughts in the mid-1980s I was immediately attracted to the idea of feedforward. It is hard to explain to a media rich world in 2009 just how exciting video was as a medium in the 1980s. My book on Using Video in Sport (1988) contains a bibliography that was drawn from the origins of using video in sport. The earliest reference I have there is a paper by Anne Rothstein and R Arnold (1976) on videotape feedback and bowling in the first edition of Motor Skills; Theory into Practice.

There was a great deal of discussion about feedback in those days. There was an enormous sense of adventure. Early in the 1990s I read some of Richard A Schmidt’s thoughts about feedback (1991, 1997). Later this led me to explore Gabriele Wulf’s work amongst others ( 2001, 2002). This work resonated with me too and it has encouraged me to explore the possibilities for guided discovery in coaching and teaching environments. It made it possible too for me to explore performances of understanding in play, games and sport.

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by William Kitzinger. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.