Learning, however, is a complex process, the principles of which are not always obvious, thus the need for careful inspection. By examining these principles we will be in a better position to assess how they can be applied to physical education.
Psychology is about theories as to what leads people to behave in particular ways in different situations. Learning and motivation are important aspects of human behavior and have been the subject of much research. From the perspective of motor skills, learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in ability resulting from experience and training as a progression from simple to more complex, sophisticated movements
Operant conditioning is a psychological technique for modifying behavior that is particularly relevant to how psychology can be helpful to the teaching of gymnastics. The technique is defined as a voluntary response that is strengthened or weakened according to immediately following consequences. Organisms therefore have a tendency to repeat those actions that are reinforced in particular ways that result in a change of behavior. Behaviorism, as this approach to learning is called, is based on those aspects of behavior that are overtly observable. Because behaviorist techniques rely on the observation of explicit actions, they are especially applicable to the teaching of gymnastics.
There are various methods by which a behavior can be reinforced of which the most efficacious has proved to be positive (praise) rather than negative (punishment) feedback. Positive reinforcement are of two main kinds, extrinsic and intrinsic; verbal encouragement or privileges are common examples of the former, whereas the latter applies to self-motivated students who receive a sense of fulfilment at achieving success. As students requiring the most attention are those who tend to underachieve and are not always self-motivated, our concern will mainly be with extrinsic reinforces as these, when used in the right circumstances, have proved to be advantageous in a number of different ways.
An essential aspect of achieving a positive outcome is the breaking down of complex tasks into simpler ones that can be translated into graded steps according to the ability of the student. In this regard, motor skills can be decomposed into a series of simple frames that help to pin-point strengths and weaknesses that can be translated into structured programmes for initiating improvement. Programmed learning of this type allows the trainee to progress at his/her own rate, and permits learning to be facilitated through positive reinforcement of the targeted behavior in that a correct response will be more likely than an incorrect one. Skills can therefore be programmed to advance through structured hierarchies of tasks that progress from the rudimentary to the complex through successive approximation.
In a physical education setting, there are special circumstances to take account of when applying these principles. As individuals are inclined to possess a wide variety of abilities, it is essential that the