motor learning

Perhaps no other motor learning topic is debated as much as the whole/part practice question. When practicing a volleyball skill, which type is more effective? To practice the entire skill or to practice parts of the skill? One way for volleyball coaches to solve this dilemma is to conduct a skill analysis for each of the six volleyball skills (serving, passing, setting, hitting, blocking, and digging) and determine the complexity and the organization of each skill. The complexity of the skill consists of the number of parts or components while the organization of the skill involves the relationship among the various parts. If a skill is highly organized, it means that one part is dependent on the previous components. After doing the skill’s task analysis, the general principle is if the skill is high in complexity and low in organization then the part method is better. For example, serving in volleyball would involve several components or parts to the skill, but these parts are not interdependent to one another; so the part method would be more appropriate. However, when a skill is low in complexity and high in organization practicing the whole skill is more appropriate. For example, spiking in volleyball involves parts that are highly dependent on one another. The approach, jump and arm swing all work interdependently in order for the entire skill to be successful, thus the whole method is more appropriate, and this is especially true when working with beginners. The whole/part debate will continue among volleyball coaches, but determining the complexity and organization of the various skills may provide some guidance regarding which practice approach is better to use during practice skill instruction.

My own comments:

This is a very important principle that will help you when practicing your chosen skill. You will realize that practicing juggling as a whole will produce the best results. This is because juggling is considered high and complexity and high organization (refer to Magill & Anderson, 2017 for details). Now, some will find it helpful to practice a simplified version of the skill (a type of part practice called simplification). Practicing with scarves, for instance, is an example. Notice that you are not trying to apply the part practice to the actual characteristics of the skill of juggling (see the listed 7 characteristics in the picture below).

Now, with the skill of speed cup stacking, one would benefit by employing the part practice method. In this case, the complexity is high but the organization is low. We break up the skill into parts and practice each part separately before practicing it as a whole. For instance, when practicing the 3-6-3 sequence, it is recommended that you practice the 3 up/down part separate from the 6 up/down part.

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