Blocked, Variable and Random Practice

In motor learning, there are 3 types of practice, blocked, variable and random. The hardest question which sports coaches have to answer is, which one of these practices is the best one to use in a training session to enable learning has a powerful effect on the participants involved? and which practice is the best one for use for my own coaching?

Blocked practice is a method in which the participant will work on the same task/technique in one session and will repeat this over and over again and this is performed until the player has undertaken a predetermined level of competence. Once this is visible, they will then move onto another task which will use this same sequence. This type of practice ‘is typical of some drills in which a skill is repeated over and over, with minimal interruption by other activities’ (Lee and Schmidt, 2014), therefore suggesting that no other objects or personnel (for example a defender being added) are apparent, only this task will be repeated until they have a good understanding and level of skill required to move onto the next task. The reason why this practice is used by some coaches is if they want to strip and take the task right back down to basics they can do. For example in gymnastics, blocked practice can be used on a tucked jump. Instead of getting the performer to keep on performing tucked jumps, this can be taken right back down to how they would start off the jump, they must position their legs at 45 degrees and put their arms behind them to allow leverage and power. They would repeat this stance over and over again until they master it and move onto the next task. This is an example of blocked practice.

Variable practice is a type of learning technique which involves variations of the same skill being performed. This type of practice is similar to blocked, however, the player can perform various versions of the same skill. This practice is ‘a practice sequence in which the same tasks or movements are repeated but where one aspect of the execution is changed from one repetition to another’ (Volleyball Canada, 2016). This practice is following on from blocked but has a little advancement/progression if the performer is adequate to progress on the task. This type of practice could be used in football if the coach wanted to work on passing. Instead of using a blocked practice approach, the coach could ask the player to use their opposite foot rather when passing. This is still working on the same activity of passing, however one aspect of the activity has been changed. This is an example of variable practice.

Random practice is very different to blocked and variable as this type allows the player to perform one type of task and then move onto the next straight way. There are multiple skills incorporated into this type of practice and allows the performer to work on many different aspects of a sport rather than just working on one specific activity such as dribbling in football. In random practice, performers ‘never (or rarely) practice the same task on two consecutive attempts’ (Lee and Schmidt, 2014) clearly supporting this view that the performers carry out various skills and activities rather than just focusing on one task like blocked and variable.

The question which many sports coaches ask themselves is which type of practice is the most effective one to use? I believe there isn’t a practice which is the most effective, it all depends on the type of performers a coach has and what activity they are going to performing. Many coaches, including myself, believe in the method of ‘whole, part, whole’. This type of strategy is a ‘particularly useful template for presenting difficult and complex educational content’ (Mindedge Learning Workshop, 2016) meaning that the Whole Part Whole method is a great way to allow performers to understand and practice difficult situations and movements. To put this into a sporting context and relating back to motor learning, coaches could start off with random practice and then strip the activity right down to blocked and put them back into a random practice again. For example in gymnastics, the coach could ask the performers to perform certain movements and jumps and assess which ones they are competent at and ones which need work on. Then, using whole part whole, the coach could refer to a blocked practice approach and strip a movement right back down to basics to allow the performer to understand how the movement works. Then, the coach can refer back to random practice and put the session back into a whole concept rather than part.

I feel the whole part whole strategy towards my own coaching will be very beneficial to my success and development as a coach. This is because at the moment my coaching is very static and I cant find a way to progress each activity. I always stay on one task without moving on even if the performers can perform the activity successfully. Using whole part whole as well as these 3 practices, I will be able to see the performers strengths and weaknesses and it will allow them to learn more my stripping the activity right back down and then putting it back into a game situation. This will allow them to successfully see the activity being put into practice and it will also make it easier for me to coach.

 

Reference List:

Lee, T. and Schmidt, R. (2014) Motor learning and performance 5th edition: In many, if not most, real-world settings, the learner’s goal is to acquire more than a single skill or task in a limited practice period, sometimes even in a single practice period. Available at: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/research-illuminates-the-benefits-of-random-practice-over-blocked-practice-in-motor-learning (Accessed: 15 January 2016).

Lee, T. and Schmidt, R. (2014) Motor learning and performance 5th edition: In many, if not most, real-world settings, the learner’s goal is to acquire more than a single skill or task in a limited practice period, sometimes even in a single practice period. Available at: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/research-illuminates-the-benefits-of-random-practice-over-blocked-practice-in-motor-learning (Accessed: 15 January 2016).

Mindedge Learning Workshop (2016) Available at: http://learningworkshop.mindedge.com/2010/03/26/considering-the-whole-part-whole-learning-model/ (Accessed: 15 January 2016).

Volleyball Canada (2016) Available at: http://vcdm.org/global/images/misc/Constant_Variable_or_Random_Practice%281%29.pdf (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

 

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