Physical Education KS4 / GCSE: The three stages of skill acquisition

‘Dr Chris’ (Van Tulleken) explores the science behind the 3 stages of skill learning shown through riding a bike and juggling.

Danny MacAskill, a professional street trials rider, takes on the challenge of a barrel roll, whilst Dr Chris competes against an 8 year-old-boy, a full three decades his younger, in a juggling challenge.

From juggling balls and scarves, to rotating your body under a bike so you are corkscrewing out of a barrel roll sideways with your head two feet off the deck and running out of time to land on some safety mats, Dr Chris investigates the science of myelination that happens when you learn a new skill and the three stages of skill acquisition (Cognitive, ‘practice’ or associative and ‘effortless’ or autonomous).

Danny MacAskill demonstrates how the brain uses information from your vestibular system comprising of your inner ear and coordinates this with information from your eyes and the muscles and nerves from your body to react quickly to changes in the environment and coordinate movement in time and space to keep balance and finally land that trick.

This clip is from the series Curriculum Collections.

Teacher Notes

The clip could be used for pupils to appraise health and safety methods for the prevention of injury regarding the street trials rider and their attempts at a new trick.

It could also be used to develop learning about skill continuum's when comparing the juggling skill and the barrel roll skill riding a bike.

Students can summarise the three stages in their own words and relate this to their own experiences.

A juggling challenge with the class or other ‘circus’ skills could be used as an investigation into skill learning as per the clip.

Links can be made to skill continuums (open and closed) and how the skill classification will impact on the type and nature of practice structured for learning.

The students could also be asked what the impact of a coach or teacher might be on learning and performance and the guidance and feedback they would give to the performers.

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching Physical Education at KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4 and 5 in Scotland.