Giving Feedback – Why Less is More- Part 3

In this final part of the three-part blog series I will look at implicit feedback, which is feedback that you get from your interaction with the environment.  This is a way of getting feedback without conscious awareness of technique.

Implicit learning

One thing that Matt didn’t refer to is this concept of Explicit versus Implicit feedback.  If we talk about a speed task for example, when a coach is giving you feedback the coach will either tell you how fast you moved (KR) or tell you ‘how’ you moved (KP).   The moment the coach takes responsibility for telling you how you did something- good or bad- they are being ‘explicit’ with you because they are raising your awareness to how you are getting your results.  They are talking to you about technique!  Whenever we use KP we are doing this!

But what if there was an alternative way to improve technique without conscious awareness of it?………..  This is more related to KR.  This is where you don’t provide any feedback on technique as you want full focus on the target.

I think this is the area that has received quite a bit of discussion on in recent years.  I will refer back to Part 1 where we were introduced to the idea of the Performance Playground.  You don’t always need the spoken words (feedback) about technique from an actual ‘Teacher’ or coach to learn something.  Sometimes the environment can be its own teacher.

In a presentation on the APA Philosophy one of the questions I asked was ”How Do We Learn New Skills?”  I gave the example of a baby learning to walk and speak, and a young child learning how to ride a bike.

Movement shapes vs. Movement problem

There seems to be an agreement that many of the most important skills we acquire as babies and young children are ‘reflex driven’ meaning the body responds to the environment through perception-action coupling.  You learn through trial and error, and slowly getting better.

Experts identify, filter & attend to sensory information quicker as well as have more elaborate skills & greater understanding of strategy to make more effective responses

You could consider these as ‘movement problems’- how to walk or ride a bike without falling over.  As parents we don’t tend to get overly concerned with the movement shape- exactly how they should move their arms and legs (knowledge of performance).  The achievement of walking or riding a bike a certain distance without assistance would constitute knowledge of results.  We give them the outcome but we don’t coach them how to achieve it.

Yet I know myself, that once I have an athlete in a more organised coaching session to develop more advanced skills like sprinting and cutting, I have a habit of making myself central to the coaching experience and want to rush in and correct errors far too soon.  I get wrapped up in the perfect movement shape or ‘technical model.’  So suddenly the coaching approach shifts.

Constraints based coaching

One concept that comes up in the literature is constraints based coaching referring to the three main things you can manipulate or constrain in your coaching.

  • Athlete
  • Task
  • Environment

The idea of using ‘constraints’ is to  allow more attention to be put on the external environment rather than the internal movement.  If you change the task or you manipulate the environment it will promote the desired skill without you necessarily having to raise their awareness to the technique you want.  In theory the body will self-organise and figure it out.  For example if you play tag in a small space the body is more likely to adopt a shuffle step, and if you make it a constraint that it’s ‘knee tag’ then they are more likely to use their legs to get lower.  If you manipulate the task to make the grid bigger and call it shoulder tag you will get more running type movements.

This type of coaching is also referred to as ‘Discovery Learning.’  This creates an ‘Psychophysical’ environment which provides a setting to exploit movement variability as a mechanism to enhance an athlete’s adaptability.  Features of coaching in this environment include:

*Movements must be practised

*Adopt non awareness strategy

*Can involve relevant external cues

*Must be sports ‘related’

*Involve problem solving

*Can be reactive

 

Children do Not learn automatically in FMS

One cautionary point to make in case you have the impression I am suggesting coaches stop giving feedback- using constraints to create a discovery learning based environment doesn’t mean children don’t benefit from receiving feedback on performance!!

Children do not develop automatically in FMS.  They need to learn and practice.

Yes skilled movers need to be able to adjust their movements to the changing environment- but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them how!

Selectively introduce the novice to the right aspects of the environment.  This is known as ‘Education of Attention.’

Show landmarks that orientate his or her activities. Learn what to notice and do, through the imitation of others.

Learning how to deal with very specific settings in which their training has taken place. I liken this to a young boy going out hunting with his Father in the jungle and learning how to notice things to help him hunt.

 

MultiskillZ Programme

One programme which I think really embraces these concepts of Implicit coaching and Discovery Learning is ”Multi SkillZ” programme-which I feel creates the template for movement exploration for others to follow.  In their description of their philosophy they say:

MOTOR COMPETENCE is foundation for SPORT SKILL

The goal is NOT to improve certain movement patterns or movement techniques.  We emphasis motor abilities referred to as the sub factors of the different development domains.  We do not stick to specific drills or exercises.  On the contrary we would like to expose the children to continuously changing situations and movement tasks.  In this way we believe we accelerate motor learning and motor abilities.

FUN and stimulating

A Multi SkillZ drill meets 5 standards. The i5-approved drills:

  • Invite participants to play or move
  • Intensive
  • Intriguing as it takes the attention of each participant constantly
  • Implicit learning
  • Interactive as participants are challenged to work together

 

Play

I’ve already mentioned before my reluctance in the past to create a play environment, which is partly because of my fear of how parents will perceive this type of activity.  This kind of links with my next point which is where I feel it may be viewed as lazy coaching- because it looks like the coach is doing more observing than giving feedback. I have to say I was guilty of making this judgement in my early career.  I personally saw the more experienced coaches talking less and watching more and thought they had become ‘complacent.’  As a inexperienced coach I wanted to say more.

It’s also because I want to overload certain types of movement and have come to value blocked practice highly in early stages of learning.  But lately I am questioning how impactful this type of drilling is, and also how fun it is!  My reflection is that I wanted to focus more on the movement problem and a little less on the movement shape- the technical model.  This essentially means I am tending to reverse engineer from the actual movement and regress to a more simple drill when the athlete is having difficulties executing the skill.

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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Giving Feedback- Why Less is More- Part 2

In this second part to my blog series on Feedback we are still looking at the feedback from the coach known as external feedback.  Here we get into the detail a little more and look at what to say and perhap also what NOT to say!

For an excellent review of the literature on feedback check out Mattspoint latest blogs on the topic.  Part 1 and Part 2. Below are some extracts from Part 2 where he talks about Feedback Timing and feedback Frequency.

Feedback Timing

Overall, coaches and researchers caution against the over-reliance of concurrent -meaning during the skill- (and constant) feedback as it often turns into ‘white noise’, not benefitting the athlete in any meaningful way. From a player and parents perspective, this may sometimes be a challenge – “the coach doesn’t say much”. Truth is, the coach is likely purposely holding back their feedback, allowing the player to ‘figure it out’ before attempting to intervene.

Now of course there’s a difference between an absent-minded coach, one that just isn’t in tune with what’s going on, and one that’s withholding feedback for the player’s sake. But those of you reading this post are likely part of the latter, rather than the former.

Key pointwait until you see a consistent error before jumping in and correcting! Don’t create athletes that can’t operate without your feedback. Allow them space to develop their problem solving ability – this actually builds confidence.”

Feedback Frequency

Interestingly enough, research has indicated that when athletes are given the choice, they prefer to receive feedback about 30% of the time. In many tennis settings, however, the reverse (or worse) is true – coaches are giving feedback 70% of the time or more!

It does depend on the athlete you’re working with and where your skills as a coach lie. Younger coaches tend to say a lot to prove that ‘they know what they’re talking about’. Experienced coaches have ‘been there and done that’ and don’t need that validation.

For instance, ever seen a practice session with two pro players and an experienced coach? Very little is said during the actual session. When I work alongside elite coaches, we purposely set objectives before practice, provide minor cues during breaks/changeovers and a more in-depth debrief at the end of a session. This is even more true as we approach competition periods – I should reiterate, players need space to problem solve on their terms.

Faded Feedback

With faded feedback, a coach will initially provide feedback on every (or almost every) attempt. Research suggests that this helps accelerate the learner’s path towards the movement goal. As the movement becomes more proficient, feedback is provided less frequently – in effect, fading out. The ultimate goal being that the learner can achieve the intended movement without a dependence on the coach and/or the feedback.

The beauty here is that feedback can also be faded back in – in case the movement has regressed in some way. Once it’s back on track, the feedback again is withdrawn.

Bandwidth Feedback

With this form of feedback, a preset ‘degree of acceptability’ is established – with no feedback given when performance falls within the bandwidth and feedback given when it falls outside of the band of acceptability. The key here is that the learner is aware, before the fact, that if nothing is said, the movement is basically ‘correct’.

Research (Sherwood 1988) found that when the band was larger (~10%) compared to the target goal, it was more effective than smaller bands (1-5%). The theory being that less feedback (because of a larger bandwidth) will produce stable and consistent actions over time.

Summary Feedback

Here, feedback is given after a series of attempts – like 5 or 10, for instance. Interestingly enough, this feedback type has been shown to be more effective than trial-to-trial feedback – even though mistakes can be higher during practice, with this approach.

Interestingly enough, researchers found that getting feedback after every attempt promoted too much dependence. At the same time, feedback that was too infrequent (say, after 100 trials), didn’t guide the learner efficiently enough. Based on several experiments, feedback post about 5 trials seems to be most optimal when it comes to longer-term learning.

Tip: If you’re basket-feeding, try for multiple series of about 5 attempts, before intervening with feedback (even if you detect an error beforehand). This approach might have several benefits – first, the player has freedom to self-correct. Second, 5 attempts is still relatively low, so they won’t ingrain a bad habit. And lastly, from a physical standpoint it’s more specific to the demands of actual tennis-play (i.e. work:rest ratios).

Learner-Determined Feedback

This is pretty self-explanatory – feedback is only given when the learner requests it. I’ve encountered this on many occasions when working with elite players. But is it effective?

According to a throwing task study, participants that self-directed feedback, had better throwing accuracies compared to a group that was given faded feedback (feedback frequencies and types were matched). How can this be? Wulf and others in this field of study found that when feedback is learner-determined, it tends to be requested more following successful/correct attempts, compared to poor ones. Isn’t that interesting?

[Daz comment] As a coach I have to say I still feel like I need to be saying things more often and giving feedback and tips to correct their errors as soon as I see them.  It’s partly because I feel parents expect it and it’s partly because I am in the habit of wanting to correct an error as soon as I see one- rather than giving them a few reps to figure it out!  Wait until you see a consistent error before jumping in and correcting!

How I feel when I see a technical error- I need to stop myself from wanting to get involved and ‘tell’ them how to solve the problem!

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
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