Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How Motor Learning Helps You Learn Effectively

How Motor Learning Helps You Learn Effectively

Practice makes perfect. It’s a cliche saying that gets pulled out time and time again. For many, they loath to hear it but that saying has some truth to it. After all, this saying pops up the most when we are motor learning.

While this saying is off in that perfection is impossible, the practice side of it is the only way for us to get closer to that level. And the only way a motor skill can get to that level is through motor learning. It’s through this concept where we can grow the various skills in our lives, but also to learn effectively should we learn the right way.

What Is Motor Learning?

To present an example, it’s best to explain what motor learning is. For starters, it’s been described as such:[1]

“A set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior”

Another way to describe it as a process, where our brain responses in a way to either practice or experience a certain skill that we allow for growth of a motor skill or the production of a new motor skill. This happens because our central nervous system changes to allow this to happen in the first place.

To see this at work, consider one of the first skills we learned as a human being: walking. While some think toddlers get up and start trying to walk, the process is more complex than that.

The reason people started to learn to walk was because of motor learning.

At the base stage, we started to walk because months before even trying to take our first steps, we saw how important it was. We witnessed several people walking and understood how helpful it is to walk on two feet.

Advertising

The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

There is more to motor learning than you might think. Over the years, the learning community has uncovered that there are three stages of motor learning:

  • Cognitive;
  • Associative;
  • And autonomous.

Each stage has its own requirements for further development and what each stage brings to the learning experience. Here are some details.

Cognitive Stage

This base stage is where a lot of learning and context happens. At this stage, we’re not overly concerned about how to actually do the skill properly. Instead, we’re more concerned about why we should bother learning the skill. It’s coming to terms with why this skill is worth learning and investing time in.

Once we’ve got a grasp of that, this stage also starts the trial and error process. You can call it practice, but at this stage, the idea is to at least try it out rather than nail it.

This is also the stage where we are heavily reliant on guidance. We can have a coach or a teacher there and their role is to provide a good learning environment. This means removing distractions and using visuals as well as encouraging those trial and errors to guide the learning process.

Some examples of this is going back to the walking example. But other instances are things like driving a car or riding a bike. Even when we are older you can see this form of learning working.

Associative Stage

The second stage is where we’ve got some practice under our belt and we have a good grasp of general concepts. We know what to do in order to perform this particular skill. The only problem is that we might not be able to do that skill all that well when compared to others.

Indeed, we know what to do, but not “how to do it well.” It’s at this stage where the saying “Practice makes perfect” rings true. The more that we practice, the more we can refine and tighten the loose ends of that skill.

Advertising

An example of this motor learning at work is looking at sports players. Generally speaking, people can perform better the more that they practice. Why that’s the case is because the more we practice something the more we understand what input does to our bodies. We understand our current limits or how certain input will react through our bodies.

Autonomous Stage

At this stage, everything is more or less automatic. Sure we can still improve, but generally speaking, you don’t need to tell yourself to go and do a certain task or assignment constantly. Your body has become adjusted to the idea of doing this.

An example of this learning is the skills that you use at work. Whatever you feel about your work, we both know that when you get to work, you need very little persuasion to actually do your work. Whether that’s writing, lifting, operating a machine, or performing, there are a set of skills that we don’t think and merely do.

The Principles of Motor Learning

The principles of motor learning are few and far between. Generally speaking, there is a consensus that the key to learning a new motor skill isn’t so much on the amount of time spent practising, but the way that we practice.

This idea was brought up in a 2016 study published on Science Alert, where scientists uncovered that making changes in your training can enhance your learning experience.[2]

With this in mind, the core principles focus on the methodology of learning. Not only that but ensuring they follow through the stages that I mentioned above which are simple in concept.

The core principle of this learning is to reinforce a skill so much that our execution of that skill is nothing but mindless consistency.

The study that I brought up is a new addition to that principle as we now know that making alterations during our practice can cause new aspects of learning to grow and enrich our learning and mastery of a skill.

Advertising

How to Use Motor Learning Theory For Effective Learning

The theory as we know it is to practice something until it becomes second nature. Not only that but to experiment and make small changes in order to improve a skill.

How does all of that help with us being better at something? Well as that study uncovered and stated, they found something called memory reconsolidation.[3] One of the senior study author’s, Pablo A. Celnik, M.D. stated that:

“What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row,”

Celnik also stressed why this is such a big deal:

“Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation… The goal is to develop novel behavioral interventions and training schedules that give people more improvement for the same amount of practice time.”

In other words, by using memory reconsolidation, we can learn faster and ultimately perform a skill faster than by practicing something for several hours without making changes.

Why this variation enhances practice? Because the act of recalling our memories isn’t a passive process.[4]

Whether you are learning a new skill or recalling an event, the sheer act of recalling changes the memory itself. In essence, our memories become highly unreliable as we focus and subtly alter those memories in light of recent events.

Advertising

This is because our brain is more interested in the most useful version of the word and disregards useless details.

How all of this translates to learning is that the act of memory reconsolidation feels more natural for us. Again, whenever we recall something, we’ll focus on the specific details and general concepts. So when we are asked to do the same task with subtle changes, we’ll recall the old method and pick up the core principles from that and then use that to perform the same task in a subtly different way.

Another way to look at this is that we’re constantly adjusting our “motor control policy” in order for us to achieve the exact same goal. What we practiced felt the same but what we learned along the way had shifted.

Bottom Line

In order to incorporate this into your life, it’s a matter of mixing up your practice session slightly. Whatever skill it is you are trying to do, urge yourself to make small yet subtle changes to how you perform.

If you’re writing, try applying a new word you never used previously that you picked up.

Are you practicing an instrument or playing a sport? Try to use a different muscle or a new movement to achieve the same sound. This can be something as simple as posture or body position.

The idea with motor learning is to keep practicing, even if you are the stage where your movements are automatic. This variation can very well bring you to the next level of that skill.

More About Learning Faster

Featured photo credit: Jordan Whitfield via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100% The Secret to Success Is Failure How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips

Trending in Learning

1 How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? 2 5 Characteristics of a Kinesthetic Learner 3 How Motor Learning Helps You Learn Effectively 4 How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster 5 How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

Advertising

While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

Advertising

Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

Advertising

These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

Advertising

As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

Read Next