Applying Psychology: Kids Can Improve Sport Skills by Means of Direct Observation Learning
Kids looking to improve their sport skills can do so by putting in the work and practicing, but they can also improve by simply watching others successfully perform sport skills. Social learning is a theory of learning which proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others. While hands-on practicing and being instructed by coaches are the most popular ways in which kids learn new sport skills, direct observation skill acquisition should not be overlooked.
Examining learning theories
There are three prominent learning theories in psychology, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning. The basic definitions for each are provided below:
- Classical conditioning. Two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response in a person or animal. A simple way to understand classical conditioning is by the famous salivating dog experiments where, over time, psychologists were able to train a dog to react to a bell the same as the dog would to the actual smell of food. For more information and a deeper understanding of classical conditioning check out this page.
- Operant conditioning. Is a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behavior. We often see operant learning occur when students are incentivized for rewards by earning good grades in school, or engaging in other pro-social behaviors. You can learn more about how operant conditioning works by visiting this page.
- Social learning. Emphasizes the importance of observing, modelling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory considers how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior. This theory does not rely on linking stimuli closely together for learning to occur (classical conditioning), nor does it depend on reinforcement (operant conditioning). Instead, social learning occurs by direct observation.
Parenting and coaching strategies
When helping kids learn sport skills (or any skill for that matter) it is important to not overlook the power of encouraging kids to learn by means of observation. Yes, “hands-on” practice will always be important, but what about those down times where kids are clenching a phone or tablet and can easily watch short videos of sport skills? With some encouragement from parents and coaches, kids can learn the value of social learning and begin to implement this approach to their already existing training of hands-on practice. Kids should not simply be told to watch videos, but also taught to understand the science behind this approach so that it is not viewed as a time wasting activity, or just an excuse for adults to not have to run a practice.
In this day of technology parents and coaches might take advantage by encouraging kids to improve their athletics talents by means of direct observation. Even better, encourage kids to be active observers by taking notes of what they learn, and then going outside to attempt to perform the very same skills. With so much information at our fingertips it is important to empower kids to use the internet wisely, including ways to improve skills by means of observation.