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

Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways how to make a life plan How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template) Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How to Tackle Them How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

Trending in Learning

1 How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier 2 How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything 3 How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 4 10 Powerful Learning Hacks to Boost Your Learning Ability 5 6 Effective Learning Techniques that are Backed by Research

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

social learning theory

    Be Mindful

    Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

    Advertising

    For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

    If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

    For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

    Don’t Multitask

    In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

    However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

    Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

    Engage Actively

    Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

    When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

    To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

    Retention

    Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

    Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

    Advertising

    These tips should help increase your retention power.

    Repeat to Remember

    Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

    A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

    Increase Brain Power

    You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

    Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    Make Connections

    Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

    Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

    Remember That Less Is More

    When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

    Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

    Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

    Motivation

    The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

    Advertising

    When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

    Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

    Find a Role Model

    Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

    The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

    Make a Note

    Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

    Talk About It

    Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

    An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

    This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

    Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

    Reproduction

    In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

    Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

    Advertising

    Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

    Direct Reinforcement

    This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

    To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

    Vicarious Reinforcement

    Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

    A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

    Self-Reinforcement

    Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

    Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

    The Bottom Line

    Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

    If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next