Source: Ford Video/Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports
This is part 2 of a series of posts. You can read part 1 here.
My previous post focused on children’s motor impairment, its role in the so-called failure cycle, and the potentially harmful effects on psycho-social development (“The Effects Motor Impairment May Have on Children”). It was emphasized that subpar motor performance must not be viewed as an isolated entity, but rather, as part of the child’s total well-being. The present post deals with remediation of motor impairment, which is ultimately designed to combat the failure cycle.
The educational implications of the failure cycle
The obvious implication is that various degrees of motor impairment constitute an educational concern. The more complicated motor skills, such as those used in sports, are superimposed upon fundamental skills which the child has acquired prior to 6 years of age (eg, running, jumping, throwing). Because proficiency in complex skills depends primarily on the mastery of fundamental skills, the child must have a solid foundation of skills upon which to build more advanced skills.
The tremendous amount of time required to gain mastery of fundamental skills points to the urgency of early practice. Therefore, the establishment of integrated patterns of movement is of primary importance in combating the failure cycle. Efforts to prevent the beginning of the failure cycle should be directed toward ensuring that adequate levels of fundamental skills are acquired at an early age. This is undoubtedly the most efficient and effective way to deal with the phenomenon. In other words, the best intervention is prevention.
How can children experience optimal motor development and attain satisfactory levels of performance?
The key is to promote development of a wide variety of movement experiences. Consideration must therefore be given to the nature and the quality of children’s early learning environments. Preschools usually provide preacademic enrichment, but some might inadvertently impose conditions of movement deprivation. If preschool facilities do not include sufficient indoor and outdoor space and equipment, practice in vigorous, total-body skills is apt to be restricted.
The negative effect of inadequate preschool facilities on motor development is often compounded by a lack of qualified leadership to provide instruction in movement skills. The stage-to-stage progression of developmental motor patterns, and the subsequent combination of basic patterns into skills of increasingly greater specificity and complexity, depends upon ample opportunity for practice under competent, guided instruction. The need is thus indicated for involvement of qualified instructors in the planning and conduct of movement-education programs for preschool children.
Why early intervention is critical
The importance of preventing the failure cycle from occurring (or at the very least, early attempts at intervention) cannot be overemphasized. Why? Because of its increasingly regressive nature, it becomes more difficult to break the failure cycle with advancing age. Therefore, there is a need for early identification of motor-impaired children to enable initiation of appropriate intervention as soon as possible. Instructional programs aimed at remediating motor incompetence should be carefully planned and adapted to the specific needs of the target children. This includes consideration of instructional techniques designed to foster positive participation motivation, as well as long-term involvement in programs of physical activity.
How can children be helped to become successful, while still providing challenging learning experiences?
A chief principle of education posits that children must experience some degree of early success in order for optimal learning to occur. Instructors must therefore strive to provide learning opportunities that make it possible for all youngsters to experience the joys of accomplishment within their own individually defined limits.
With respect to remedial activity programs, educators are confronted with the problem of providing learning experiences that give children some degree of success, and at the same time, keep them motivated with challenges. One approach involves the use of activities inclusion rather than activities of exclusion.
- With exclusive activities, children are eliminated as the task is made increasingly difficult, and they are no longer able to succeed. For example, the bar in high jumping is progressively raised until every child is eliminated; Thus, every child must eventually fail.
- Inclusive activities are appropriate to the abilities of the learners, enabling their continual involvement in the instructional process. Perhaps the best example is exploratory movement activities that have potentials for self-challenge and allow a number of different, yet individually correct responses. Their use enables children to be successful within their own capabilities.
Consideration should not only be given to the nature of the activities selected, but also to the characteristics of the equipment and facilities. Many activities commonly involve special apparatus that may not be realistic or appropriate for certain age groups. However, with minor modifications, they can be adapted to ensure successful learning experiences.
What about the use of homogeneous grouping as an instructional strategy?
One frequently-recommended instructional procedure is to group participants according to their level of ability. The use of homogeneous grouping facilitates matching of physical tasks to the ability level of the learners, which affords greater opportunities for their successful participation. The basic objective is to involve children in activities in which they are likely to experience initial success and thus stimulate their interest and continuing participation. In this way, instructors (teachers and coaches) can more adequately build on the learner’s positive attributes.
Homogenous grouping facilitates individualized instruction that is geared to lower-level performers. It should be noted, however, that the procedure is not a teaching panacea; rather, there are several shortcomings of which to be aware:
- When underachievers are grouped together for practice/instructional purposes, their exposure to peer models of excellence is unduly restricted.
- Some children simply do not like homogeneous grouping because of the potential for unsavory labeling by their peers.
- Being identified (labeled) as below average might negatively affect children’s motivation to achieve, and that may have an undesirable effect on their self-esteem.
In the final analysis, the feasibility and advisability of utilizing homogeneous grouping procedures is an individual matter. More exactly, it depends on the experience and capabilities of the instructor, and on the characteristics of the students as well.