Want to know if the players have learned implicitly? Test them.

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.