Kerr, R., & Booth, B. (1978). Specific and varied practice of motor skill. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 46, 395-401.

The effect of varied and specific practice on schema formation was studied. Schema theory suggests that an individual can use information from a previous perceptual trace to develop a trace for a new variation of a task.

Two groups of 8-12 years-old children (N = 64) performed a novel throwing task. They were measured at the beginning and finish of a 12-week physical education program.

8-years group. The specific practice group performed four blocks of four trials at a distance of three feet. The varied practice group performed two blocks of four trials at distances of two and four feet. The final test was throwing at three feet.

12-years group. The specific group practiced at four feet, the varied at three and five feet. The test was at four feet.

Results. There were no differences between the groups initially but at the end the varied practice groups were significantly better. Varied practice enhanced performance over specific practice provided the varied practice encompassed the specific task.

Implication. For beginners it is helpful to vary the task when they are developing the schema (familiar general strategies) for performing some activity.

Fleishman (1957 - see reference below) found that motor ability is initially general but then becomes more specific with practice relative to learning motor skills. Thus, depending upon the stage of learning of a person, the instructional strategy will be determined as to whether it supports or discriminates against skill generalization. This neither supports nor denies transfer of learning effects.

Specificity may be due to the skill elements added due to a special experience. One cannot assume that there is a conversion or expansion of the basic motor ability.

[Fleishman, E. A. (1957). A comparative study of aptitude patterns in unskilled and skilled motor performances. Journal of Applied Psychology, 41, 263-272.]

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