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Learning – The process by which relatively permanent changes occur in behavioral potential as a result of experience. (Anderson) A process that “builds on or modifies understanding, capacities, abilities, attitudes and propensities in the individual. ” (Inglis, Ling, & Joosten (1999) p. 104-105) Above are two definitions of learning, in general learning is a process where we gain a better understanding or new abilities from experience. There are different learning theories about how we actually gain our knowledge and skill. Cognitive theories

Cognitive theories of learning are about thinking and understanding rather than connecting certain stimuli to certain responses. Cognitive theories look at individuals and how they can learn theories. It is sometimes known as insight learning. In cognitive theories we get our information from our surroundings and work out what has happened using our long and short-term memories as well a previous knowledge and general understanding. Gestaltists believe that learning can be explained better if we look at the parts which make up the whole, rather than looking at the parts separately outside the whole experience.

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(Adopted from Stafford-Brown et al) The Gestalt theory put forward that an individual’s perception of stimuli has an affect on their response. If two individuals are exposed to identical stimuli, their reactions to it would be different, depending on their past experiences. This was demonstrated in a study showing subjects chess pieces on a game board. They were shown the board briefly and asked to reconstruct what they saw. They were allowed successive brief looks at the board until they were able to reconstruct the entire board.

The study found that experienced chess players did better than inexperienced subjects, when the pieces were situated in a way that resembled an actual game, than if the pieces were placed in a random order (Cook, 1993) The Gestalt theory hypothesizes that individuals use insight when solving a problem or determining their response to stimuli. Wolfgang Kohler used his observations of chimpanzees to formulate his ideas on insight. Food was placed out of the chimpanzee’s reach while objects such as sticks were place in their reach. Kohler observed the monkeys while they attempted to reach the food.

He observed that some of the apes learned more quickly than others. In addition, although the monkeys used trial and error to reach the food, their attempts were not consistent and regular as you may expect if they were basing their attempts on the reinforcement of a prior attempt. Nor were there attempts random, but Kohler believed that the chimpanzees used their prior attempts to determine their next attempt. Kohler theorized that the monkeys used insight to solve the problem (Blosser 1973). We could adopt the cognitive theory to coaching an individual a skill.

For example swimming, Gestaltists would let the person swim from one end to the other how ever they liked. Eventually the person would find a method to complete the task using insight, and then they would become more skilled and faster. Associate theories Associate theories of learning are completely different to the cognitive theory of learning as associative relates to connecting stimulus to response. “These theories are often referred to as Stimulus-response theories or theories of association; where the out come or product was more important than the process.

(Wesson et al 2000 page 497) Classical conditioning was carried out by a Russian physiologist called Pavlov; Pavlov repeatedly presented a dog with food following the ringing of a bell. When the bell sounded without the presentation of food, the dog would still respond to the bell as if it were food. Pavlov collected the dogs’ saliva and found that the amount of saliva produced by bell ringing increased as the dogs were more frequently exposed to the coupling of food presentation and bell ringing. The dog had learned to associate the sound of the bell with food.

Pavlov called the food an unconditional stimulus, or UCS, because the dog’s normal reaction would be to salivate at the presentation of food. The bell he termed the conditional stimulus, or CS, because response to the bell was conditional upon the Association between the bell and food. For the same reasons, salivation in response to food was labelled the unconditional response, or UCR, while salivation in response to the bell was called the conditional response, or CR. Conditioning the dog to salivate at the sound of the bell occurred as a result of a contingency between the UCS and the CS

(Wesson et al 2000 page 497) This theory can be applied to sport by adapting it to the athlete’s behaviour when conditioned by a coach. The coach can condition an athlete to produce a certain response with the presentation of a certain stimulus. Like if a badminton coach wants to teach their player to perform a drop shot at the net, the coach will set up the situation so the stimulus to the shot is consistently presented. Through practice the learner discovers when to produce the conditioned response. It can also be use to teach people how to relax.

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