Saturday, August 15, 2020

Academic Quick Hit - Metacognition in Motor Learning - Simon and Bjork, 2001

Where I attempt to give a quick summary and opinion on an academic paper that connects to teaching, learning, and/or sport.

Why I think this paper matters:
- It shows that random practice can be better than blocked practice for motor learning tasks. Most blocked/random research at the time was limited to cognitive tasks.
- It highlights how "illusions of competence" may influence current learning efforts.
- "One important speculation that arises from the present results is that learners who train under [random] conditions would be less likely to terminate practice before achieving the level of learning that is the goal of such practice and less prone to attempt a task for which they are unprepared" (p. 912).

Citation: 
Simon, D. A., & Bjork, R. A. (2001). Metacognition in motor learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27(4), 907–912. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.27.4.907

Type of Paper: Empirical Research
The authors studied college students, having them learn a task, predict how well they would complete the task in future trials, then tested them the next day.

Highlights:
- "Confidence was positively correlated with the amount of practice at the task, but confidence did not correlate with performance" (p. 908). Learners tend to overestimate how well they have learned a task when they learn in blocked practice.
- As practice trials went on, the difference in skill execution between blocked and random practice structure decreased. Any short-term advantages in learning from blocked practice were lost as more learning opportunities occurred.
- Learners in random practice were much more accurate in their estimates of their future performance.

What I'm left wondering:
- How well does this work predict learning/prediction/execution of more complex motor skills?
- At what point is a task considered "learned"? Is that when there is no significant decrease in performance between trials?
- If a task has been "learned", how often must it be practiced in order to maintain that status?

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