SHAPING MODEL 2: CHANGING A SKILLED BEHAVIOR
[Extracted from Rushall, B. S., & Siedentop, D. (1972). The development and control of behavior in sport and physical education. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger. (pp. 148-152)]
This model applies to circumstances where the behavior exists in some form but needs to be modified in order to improve performance. It differs from the previous model in the planning stages and in the singular approach to changing one feature of the skill at a time. The model is:
An example of applying this model is discussed below.
Rushall (1970) illustrated the procedure for shaping a swimming technique. One of the principal concerns of coaching advanced swimmers is to individualize the mechanical principles which govern the techniques of swimming and to teach the swimmer to perform in a particular set pattern. The example cited related the steps concerned with changing a set form of a national AAU finalist in the 100-yard butterfly event to a markedly different pattern of movement.
Several decisions and procedures had to be formulated in order to maximize the efficiency of the coaching-teaching process. They were:
Inefficient Patterns. A list of the inefficiencies in the swimmer's movement pattern for swimming butterfly stroke was compiled. The inefficiencies were:
This list clearly defined the segments of the total movement pattern which needed to be eliminated. It was not necessary to punish these behaviors to eliminate them because the technique was being changed. The new aspects of the technique were superimposed on those which already existed. This is usually the case when coaching sport skills. The procedures for suppressing or eliminating behaviors are relatively unimportant in shaping procedures. It was also necessary to explain the reasons for these segments being inefficient. The swimmer could then make attempts to avoid the inappropriate segments.
Efficient Patterns. The changes in technique that were deemed desirable were established.
It was decided to superimpose the above features in the order listed. In doing this, the basic assumption was made that swimming techniques are unified patterns of behavior. This required that the total chained-operant was to be executed while attempting to change a segment of that total response.
A Significant Reinforcer. Once an athlete has achieved a certain degree of performance and motivation in a sport, it is often unnecessary to discover extrinsic reinforcers that are significant to the individual. Individuals are motivated to do the correct technique because of the consequential better performance that is derived and, therefore, knowledge of progress is able to reinforce behavior. Competitive success has usually become a strong secondary positive reinforcer. This is what allows knowledge of progress (improvement) to serve as a reinforcer. The use of contrived or material reinforcers could be necessary with very young performers, for tasks which require work-output, or for activities which have the threat of bodily harm. One of the most significant reinforcers for shaping techniques is knowledge of results (KR). KR needs to be continuous and complete to optimize skill acquisition. Changing the swimming mechanics of a single performer allowed these criteria to be met. A simple, adequate system for providing contingent KR was devised using a flashlight. It was established that when the light was not glowing, the new aspects of the technique were being correctly executed. Since the stroke was butterfly, it was possible to stand at the end of the pool and direct the light beam at the swimmer. KR was therefore available during the breathing phase of each stroke. No more than three continuous errors were tolerated in practice to avoid repetitious practice of an incorrect action.
Criteria. It was desirable to plan a system of changes from bad to good and to reinforce each of these changes with each of the new technique points. It is highly unlikely that an individual will be able to perform the new behavior perfectly on the first trial. Old movement patterns are extremely dominant and difficult to eliminate. If the steps of change are too large, then the established "good" feeling of the old pattern is upset. The new aspects might then acquire noxious qualities. The athlete feels so uncomfortable in doing new actions that the learning process is inhibited because the degree of discomfort serves as an aversive consequence. The consequences of a change in technique need to be mild so that they do not appear to be uncomfortable to the athlete. In this example, the hand entry was accordingly graded in width from 10 inches to 20 inches in approximately 2-inch increments and reinforced until performed correctly. Other new features were graded in a similar manner so that they could be introduced without discomforting the swimmer.
Schedule of Reinforcement. Once the behavior is attempted according to the strictest criterion (the terminal behavior is emitted), a schedule or reinforcement needs to be instituted to firmly establish the behavior. Continuous reinforcement in the initial trials and then a change to a VR/VI schedule were followed. After the first period of change, revisions and reappraisals of the new movement were made. In several instances, the "old" patterns recurred. Sessions of "booster" instruction were needed to finally establish the new patterns. Knowledge of results was used as the reinforcer throughout the whole shaping process.
A final aspect of shaping techniques for experienced athletes Should be considered. When an activity is performed under conditions of stress, behavior patterns tend to revert to the more established patterns. If an athlete is exhibiting a new technique at an easy level of performance, it is quite possible that the performer will revert to the old habit pattern under conditions of stress or fatigue. In such circumstances, it is necessary to give reinforcement under conditions of stress so that the behaviors will become dominant in those conditions.
Rushall, B. S. (1970). Some applications of psychology to swimming.
Swimming Technique, 7, 71-82.
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