SHAPING BASEBALL SKILLS IN CHILDREN
Simek, T. C., & O'Brien, R. M. (1982, May). A chaining-mastery, discrimination training program to teach Little Leaguers to hit a baseball: An unintentional between groups, multiple baseline study. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In their book Total golf, Simek and O'Brien (9181) reported that a chaining-mastery approach to teaching beginning golfers produced significant improvement in golf scores over traditional methods of instruction. In this study, that approach was extended to teaching Little Leaguers how to hit a baseball.
Following two baseline games and a baseline measure in practice of the number of fair balls hit before six strikes, 10 of 12 boys (ages 8-11) were trained to hit a baseball beginning with a bigger bat and ball pitched slowly from only a few feet. The pitcher then moved back with a smaller ball as a mastery criterion for number of hits was attained at each of 11 steps. Both game performance and a repeat of the baseline practice measure after game six showed large increases in the number of hits.
At this time a program of discrimination training for hitable balls (strikes) was instituted using a mastery approach to teach earlier and earlier discrimination of strikes from balls. Number of bases on balls had remained low through the first six games but gradually increased to high levels for games 7 through 10, during the discrimination training program. A repeat of the baseline practice measure, after game 10, showed continued improvement over the post-game-six measurement.
Game measures also improved from a baseline team batting average of .250, to .342 for games 3 through 6 and .369 for games 7 through 10. Two boys whose parents rejected the chaining-discrimination training approach were given training in "guided visual fantasy" for batting skills throughout the study by the father of one of the boys. They showed no improvement on any dependent measure. The results suggest that a program of chaining-mastery instruction, for hitting and discrimination training, for pitch selection can be effective in teaching Little Leaguers to hit. After winning one of two baseline games, the team won 9 of their next 10 games and finished first in their league.
Implication. Shaping/chaining produces a disciplined, reasoned, progression of experiences that lead to gradual progressive improvements in learners, important features for successful instruction. Why this approach to learning is not universally embraced remains a mystery to this day.
Simek and O'Brien introduce the important parameter of requiring a particular performance criterion to be exhibited at each step before progression is undertaken. One successful trial does not substantiate learning where as a small number of repetitions does establish a reliable effect. This is a feature that is not stressed in the Rushall and Siedentop forward progression models of shaping.
|1.||Oversize wiffle ball and bast is held over home plate. Player adjusts bat up and down to hit pitches from 8 feet away.||Contact of 5 consecutive pitches (pitches must be in strike zone).|
|2.||Oversize wiffle ball and bat held halfway from plate (mini-swing) pitches from 10 feet.||Contact on 5 of 8 swings.|
|3.||Oversize softball and regulation Little League bat. Mini swing t pitches from 10 feet.||Contact on 5 of 8 swings.|
|4.||Same ball and bat at 15 feet.||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|5.||Same ball and bat at 22 feet||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|6.||Same ball and bat at 30 feet||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|7.||Same ball and bat at regulation Little League pitching distance (40 feet 6 inches)||Contact of 5 of 12 swings.|
|8.||Regular Little League baseball and bat at 15 feet.||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|9.||Same ball and bat as in Step 8 at 22 feet.||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|10.||Sam ball and bast as in Step 8 at 30 feet.||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|11.||Same ball and bat as in Step 8 at regulation distance.||Contact on 5 of 12 swings.|
|1.||Player at plate, without bat, calls pitch (strike or ball) after pitch is in catcher's mitt and before umpire calls pitch.||7 out of 10 pitches called correctly.|
|2.||Player at plate with bat, but no swing. Calls pitch (strike or ball) as or just before the pitch impacts the catcher's mitt.||7 out of 10 pitches called correctly.|
|3.||Player at plate with bat (no swing). Pitch must be called (strike or ball) as the ball passes over the plate.||7 out of 10 pitches called correctly.|
|4.||Player at plate with bat (no swing). Pitch must be called (strike or ball) as the ball passes over white markers set 9 feet in front of the plate.||7 out of 10 pitches called correctly.|
|In all cases, the umpire had the final decision as to whether a pitch was a strike or a ball.|
Simek, T. C., & O'Brien, r. M. (1981). Total golf: A behavioral approach to lowering your score and getting more out of your game. New York, NY: Doubleday.
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