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Promoting positive transfer for any motor skill

This is an excerpt from Motor Learning and Development-3rd Edition With HKPropel Access by Pamela S. Beach,Melanie Perreault,Ali Brian & Douglas H. Collier.

The first step in promoting positive transfer is to analyze the transfer task. A good practitioner analyzes skills when designing drills and activities. Positive transfer depends on the similarities between the two tasks. These similarities can be either in the fundamental movement pattern, as proposed by the identical elements theory, or in the strategies and concepts of the tasks, as asserted by the transfer-appropriate processing theory. Skills that involve striking have similar fundamental movement patterns. Someone who has experience with cricket will have an advantage in playing softball or baseball. Both skills have similar temporal and spatial elements. The bat must contact the ball at a specific time and position.

The strategic and conceptual components of the skills can also provide positive transfer. For instance, the fundamental movement patterns in kickball and baseball are very different and even require the use of different limbs. However, the strategies of the games are similar. In both, one team has possession of the ball (the fielding team) while the other team (the batting or kicking team) attempts to hit or kick it. Each side has a role that does not change until one team has acquired a certain number of outs. As noted earlier, games are classified according to similar strategies and concepts, so positive transfer would be expected for those who play multiple games in the same classification.

Knowing how to analyze motor skills effectively not only is important in designing practices but also can assist in maximizing positive transfer based on the learners’ past experiences. Learners understand new skills more quickly when comparisons are made with skills they are familiar with. For instance, baseball and cricket have a similar defensive component that occurs in parallel with the offensive component of scoring runs. In baseball, the batter defends the strike zone, whereas in cricket, the batsman defends the wicket. Highlighting the differences can be just as beneficial to learners as pointing out the similarities. Some of the many differences between cricket and baseball include the terminology for similar positions, such as bowler versus pitcher, wicketkeeper versus catcher, and batsman versus batter. Another big difference between cricket and baseball is the batting stance. In cricket, the handle of the bat is held vertically with the end of the bat toward the ground; in baseball, the bat is held upward and cocked behind the head.

Comparing two motor skills or pointing out analogies between them can be helpful to learners. For example, when teaching how to swing a bat, an instructor can compare the lead arm position to that in throwing a disc. The back arm moves right through the movement with the elbow in, like the action of skipping a rock across a pond. The instructor must be sure that the learner has experience with the skill being compared to the new skill; if not, the comparison could be ineffective or even confuse the learner further.

Another factor that should be considered in promoting positive transfer is the learner’s skill level. Novices gain more benefit from transfer than those at higher skill levels. For example, someone learning to play racquetball will gain more advantages from previous tennis experience than an experienced tennis player would from playing racquetball in the off-season. Learners in the associative or the autonomous stage benefit much less because they can produce the fundamental movement pattern and are now focusing on much more specific movements involved in the given motor skill. In these cases, some negative transfer may occur for higher level players if the previous movement experiences alter some of their techniques.

Before incorporating progressions or drills into a practice design, practitioners should examine the cost–benefit trade-off. This requires assessing how much practice is necessary to obtain positive transfer. The amount of practice that the transfer group required to gain the initial advantage should also be taken into consideration. If more practice was required for the transfer task than for the primary task alone, then the cost would outweigh the benefit.

More Excerpts From Motor Learning and Development 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access