In a previous post I talked about implicit learning...can you remember what that is? Yes! Great what a diligent type you are!
Let me just check...I have a couple of questions...
Q. In the post, how do I define implicit learning?
No, no...don't just read on...stop, think, can you remember? Resist the temptation to click on the link above. Really try and remember and write down what you think.
Q. What is a technique I described that can be used to ensure that implicit learning is taking place?
Depending on how you found that little task will depend on whether you feel that you passed the test. Either way well done for being diligent and commiting to your learning...If you didn't pass the test ask yourself the following questions...
Q. How deeply did I read the information initially?
Q. Did I use any techniques to help retain the information like making notes, drawing a pictogram or linking some of the ideas to things I have done before?
Now we can move on to the next level....
I think you might be seeing where I am going with this...
This is one of the biggest things that I see missing in most coaching sessions I observe...
A lack of testing...
This becomes increasingly important if we are using a 'contraints led' or 'game sense' approach to coaching which involves 'implicit learning' as opposed to an explicit instructional approach where athletes simply repeat actions that are prescribed to them by the coach.
One of the challenges that 'implicit learning' poses is how do we know if learning is taking place. I see a lot of coaches standing at the side of practice and saying nothing which is obviously better than shouting instructions all the time. But I am not always sure that they have given thought as to how they can establish that learning has taken place.
In the sports landscape a well designed challenge or game can serve help to establish learning by serving as a test. In this sense the coach can put the players into a scenario that will require them to perform certain actions if they are going to succeed in achieving the objective and thereby show that they have actually learned a concept.
Coaches can choose to be 'overt' or 'covert' when applying these tests to see if the players are able to apply the concepts that have been learned effectively or not.
In an overt test the coach would pre warn the players that they are going to be observed and they may also provide information about what they are intending to observe.
In a covert test the coach just gets the players into the scenario and then observes whether the players make the correct decisions based on concepts that have previously been applied.
In this way the coach can be clear about what has or hasnt been learned implicitly and can then make informed decisions about whether or not to move onto the learning of another concept.
I know that some people reading this would have reeled at that statement...testing, in sport, Really? Sport isn't school!
Tests are a dirty word at the moment. There is a lot of debate going on about if they are good for children's development or if we should be putting this much pressure on youngsters just so that we can identify if a school is failing or not.
At one time I would have agreed with that response but I have found out a lot more about the educational power of testing and Inow think that it is an essential tool for the coaches toolbox.
Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel make this case in their excellent book "Make it stick: The science of successful learning", and argue that testing needs to be viewed as a learning tool rather than merely a way of assessing.
As they say...
"There are few surer ways to raise the hackles of many students and educators than talking about testing. The growing focus over recent years on standardises assessment, in particular, has turned testing into a lightneing rod for frustration over how to achieve the country's education goals".
They go on....
"But is we stop thinking of testing as a dipstick to measure learning - if we think of it as practicing retrieval of learning from memory rather than "testing", we open ourselves to another possibility, the use of tasting of as a tool for learning".
This method of learning is known among education scientists as 'Retrieval Practice'. This is explained by one of my favourite education writers Annie Murphy-Paul in a series of articles that are all about a concept of something she calls 'Affirmative Testing'.
As Murphy-Paul explains...
"Retrieval practice does not use testing as a tool of assessment. Rather, it treats tests as occasions for learning, which makes sense only once we recognize that we have misunderstood the nature of testing. We think of tests as a kind of dipstick that we insert into a student’s head, an indicator that tells us how high the level of knowledge has risen in there—when in fact, every time a student calls up knowledge from memory, that memory changes. Its mental representation becomes stronger, more stable and more accessible".
And this approach has been proven to work in the class envoronment as well. Murphy-Paul's article makes forther reference when quoting some teacher who have been at the coalface of this kind of teaching...
“I had always thought of tests as a way to assess—not as a way to learn—so initially I was skeptical,” says Andria Matzenbacher, a former teacher at Columbia who now works as an instructional designer. “But I was blown away by the difference retrieval practice made in the students’ performance.”
So we we can see that testing is an important part of learning. Tests are used routinely to ensure that students have understood key concepts and have mastered specific skills that they will need to be able to work out other more complex tasks later on.
The video below shows this perfectly, it is worth observing how the head coach remonstrates (rather colourfully, PG warning here!) with his assistant coaches to say a lot less so that they can actually observe what the players have learned without being told what to do.
So what are the takeaways here...
1. Well designed games make great tests of learning
2. Use games to test if learning has taken place.
3. Use tests as a way of strengthening learning
4. Tests can be overt or covert
5. Usually use the starting game as a way to test what has been learned from the previous week
Let m eknow how you get on!
I was reading this great article from Ash Smith over at www.superhumanperformance.org which was all about how kids developing amazing abilities by challenging each other and trying to outdo the last trick or skill they have performed.
It took me back to my childhood when I used to invent games with my brother and freinds to play in the park or the garden and I recognise now that this helped me to develop my abilities in a big way and also were the first steps on my coaching journey.
Essentially, I was using a constraints based model for game design without knowing it!
For example one of the games was a garden cricket game played with a golf ball and a really thin bat we called 'Golf Ball Nightmare'!
Golf Ball Nightmare (GBN) was so called for a couple of reasons..
1. It was a golf ball and if it hit you in the shin or on the knuckle then it hurt which was a nightmare. There was a healthy element of fear involved!
2. We played towards the house and if you caught one with the bat then it could hurtle towards the patio window. The bowler had to be brave and stop the ball from smashing the window so as to stop us from being grounded for the rest of our lives!
The game was intense but it was one of the best games we played, we would play for hours and took great pleasure whenever we smashed each oher on the shins and laughed as the other person hopped around holding their lower leg!
The reason the game worked was because it was brilliantly designed!
We started with the player experience...what did we want from the game?
We wanted to all have a go at batting regularly so the game had to be hard so that people got out a lot.
It had to have fear so that we could show our bravery or laugh at each other when we got a bit hurt but it couldn't be too dangerous or we wouldn't want to play.
You had to show skill to stay in bat.
Everyone needed to be involved, fielding is boring so we needed to make sure that fielders had some skin in the game. They really had to be on their toes to stop the windows getting smashed and us all getting into really deep trouble.
The golf ball bounced more realistically than a tennis ball.
Most of this design happened by accident and we made up most of the rules as we went along, modifying and tweaking the way it was played in order to make it harder or easier, more dangerous or less dangerous.
A big part of the fun was making up the rules and coming up with the game formats.
Jane McGonigal is a game designer and she talks pasiionately about the role that games and play can have to enrich our lives. I can definitely align with that!
I am left thinking how much the youth sports experience is like this.
The vast majority of kids aren't playing garden games like this anymore as they are so hooked into video games that are designed by very smart people who spend their lives working out ways to make their games more fun and more addictive so that the kids want to play again and again.
So our challenge is to think like these super smart game designers and try and beat them at their own game. We have to create really 'sticky' activities that they are going to want to do again and again.
So here are some questions to ask yourself when you are designing your activity?
Is everyone engaged?
Is there a challenge that makes them strive to go beyond their abilities?
Do players get loads of goes or do they need to stand around and wait?
Does the activity require them to solve a problem?
Do they have to think about solutions themselves and work it out or do they get given the answers?
Do they get feedack that encourages the effort in trying rather than just praise which encourages not failing?
Does it simulate the game effectively, is it realistic to what they will confront when they play in matches?
For some of us, thinking through these activities and coming up with games or activities that answer these questions is a really challenge...
So I will give you a couple of secrets...
1. Just use trial and error.
The first go at anything is rarely the best version so be prepared to flex and improve as you go. Some of my best activities have come from me having to solve a problem in the session because something wasnt working and making a tweak that made the whole activity loads better.
2. Get the kids to design with/for you.
Kids are really creative and they love designing games. They will come out with some crazy ideas that you won't even think of, you can then distill these down into something that will be really good. I often ask the question "how can we make this even better" or "how can we make it harder". The answers are usually genius.
Some people are fearful of this because they think that they will look like they don't know what they are doing?
I would answer like this...
Do we want to look good...or do we want to get better? Do we have a Growth Mindset as coaches or do we have a Fixed Mindset?
I will leave Trev Ragan from www.trainugly.com to reinforce the point.
Get out there and coach ugly!
This is a guest post from Darren Cheesman, an ex international hockey player who is now a full time Talent Coach and Talent Coach Developer. Darren has been chirping at me on Twitter to finally write the book that I have been threatening to write which has been useful motivation and work has started.
Darren is really passionate about coaching, developing coaches and also developing talented players. The post is a really great insight into his approach which I hope you will all enjoy!
For more information about Darren you can find him at https://dc17coaching.wordpress.com/ or on twitter at @darrencheesman
Over to Darren....
It's a cold winter’s night and I’m a player for a premier league team. I turn up for training and go through the motions. I love training, always have, but tonight just didn’t do it for me and I can’t honestly think of a single thing I learned, nor did I take myself out of my comfort zone once.
This happens too often, and it happens way too often with sessions I see at all different levels. In a bid to make sure this happens as little as possible in my coaching sessions, I’ve tried to centre my philosophy around the concept of creating competition.
If there is something to win, the players tend to focus more on how to win and therefore solve the problems the session is asking.
How does it work?
Before deciding on whether to award points or not, I first need to figure out whether I want the session to be around technical shaping, increasing the pressure on the skill execution, or preparing for a match.
If I award points during a technical shaping section of training, the players will be conscientious about failing and therefore missing out on points. They will also feel a little hard done by if it takes them a little longer than others to get to grips with the concept or principle. Within technical shaping, I reinforce the effort (not the success) of the individual / unit in trying to execute, and probe about how they can improve.
Once the players have a good understanding of the skill, principle, or concept, I award a points system that will reward players able to deliver under pressure. The competition means the opposing team are likely to be doing everything possible to stop you from gaining points and therefore you have to solve real problems in the quest to win the game.
Preparing for a match:
Skill acquisition and principle clarity sessions are about developing the player’s ability. It is about giving them the space to express themselves while developing concepts. There are times though when we are preparing for a match with specific roles and responsibilities in order to gain an advantage over our opposition. In these situations, points are rewarded to the players / units / team who can deliver those roles and responsibilities best.
This essentially means that there are parts of each session that are not for points. Players are told to make mistakes and express themselves. They are encouraged to do what they can to push themselves outside their comfort zones in order to truly master the skill, principle or concept. Then, there are other parts of the session where points are on offer and it’s time for them to focus on the execution of that development.
It’s noted down at the end of each session who has gained points and these are accumulated until the end of a given period. At school that period is end of a half term, with Futures Cup squad it was at the end of our 5 session training block, with other teams that period will be different.
The winner is then presented their prize and it’s a chance for them to be recognised as someone who focussed and works hard in training, something often overlooked.
One of the big things I learned from my time playing for Oranje Zwart in Hoofdklasse, the Dutch Premier League, was that training was made so hard and competitive that matches felt easy.