What are the three different stages of learning?
In this post, we explain the three main stages/phases of learning as well as explain how understanding these different phases can help sports coaches and leaders.
Fitts and Posner (1967) studied how people progress when learning a skill and came up with the three phases of learning. When you practice and learn skills, you begin to move through the phases of learning. Sports leaders and coaches can then plan to add further skills and techniques. Enabling athletes to progress and become even more skilled.
Our article on the different methods of training is also worth reading after this post. We also recommend our articles on what are the best apps for sports coaches as well as our downloadable tournament planning templates.
What are the phases of learning?
There are three stages of learning:
- Cognitive Stage of Learning
- Associative Stage of Learning
- Autonomous Stage of Learning
The Cognitive Stage of Learning
The cognitive stage of learning is the first stage of learning when a person is setting out to learn a new skill or technique. This is known as the thinking stage. An example of this could be an athlete learning how to perform a serve in tennis. Firstly, the athlete needs to understand how to take a serve.
During this stage, athletes need feedback from their coaches to understand what they are doing wrong and will need visual images and demonstrations to move forward.
The Associative Stage of Learning
The associative stage of learning is the next phase an athlete goes through when learning a new skill. This is known as the practice phase and athletes begin to learn what errors they are making and will continue to practice how to serve in tennis. During this phase, the athletes will notice they are beginning to make progress.
Athletes will still need demonstrations from their sports coaches however they will begin to relate to the demonstrations you are showing them and will use this image to help them practice. The associative stage of learning is the longest stage of learning before they begin to master the skill.
The Autonomous Stage of Learning
This is the final stage of learning and is when a skill has been overlearned and is now automatically recalled when needed. Athletes can now also begin to concentrate on other tasks. For example, the athlete who was learning how to serve in tennis can now begin to learn how to apply spin to their serve.
The athlete is able to recognise when they are performing the skill incorrectly and should be able to state what went wrong (Kinaesthetic feedback).
How can understanding this help sports coaches and leaders?
By understanding the different phases of learning, sports coaches and leaders should be able to observe which stage of learning their athletes are in and determine their coaching planning as well as monitoring the progress of their athletes/players.
Our meet the coach series provides an insight into the minds of professional sport coaches and why understanding your athletes is so important.
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New to sports coaching? Then you may want to check out our guide to sports coaching. Here you will be able to learn techniques and strategies that will excel your coaching career. Topics include Stages of Learning, Methods of Training and Leadership Styles.
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