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Motor Skill Acquisition

Course Code: SPSC 1164
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Sport Science
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will provide students with knowledge of motor skill acquisition, the variables which influence the learning and performance of motor skills, and the relationship between motor skill acquisition, motor control and motor performance.

Course Content

Specific content will focus on:

1. Motor Skill Acquisition

   1.1. Motor learning, motor control and motor performance

   1.2. Skills, actions and movements

   1.3. Classification systems

      1.3.1. Fine and gross

      1.3.2. Discrete, continuous and serial

      1.3.3. Closed and open

   1.4. Motor abilities categorization and Individual differences

   1.5. Measurement and assessment

      1.5.1. Reaction time

      1.5.2. Error measures

      1.5.3. Kinematic and kinetic

      1.5.4. EMG

      1.5.5. Brain activity measures

      1.5.6. Coordination measures

2. Motor Performance

   2.1. Movement patterns

   2.2. Stages of learning

   2.3. Memory

      2.3.1. Structure

      2.3.2. Forgetting

      2.3.3. Strategies to enhance memory

      2.3.4. Memory assessment

   2.4. Attentional limited capacity

      2.4.1. Selective

      2.4.2. Multiple–task

      2.4.3. Automaticity

      2.4.4. Visual search

      2.4.5. Attentional focus
 Skill level
 Task complexity

      2.4.6. Arousal and anxiety
 Inverted U theory

3. Motor Control

   3.1. Neuromotor anatomy

      3.1.1. Neurons

      3.1.2. Central nervous system

      3.1.3. Control of voluntary movement

   3.2. Theoretical models

      3.2.1. Information processing
 Dynamic theory
 Motor program theory

      3.2.2. Ecological approach

   3.3. Preparing a movement

      3.3.1. Reaction time, response time, movement time

      3.3.2. Factors affecting reaction time
 Number of choice responses
 Psychological refractory period

   3.4. Sensory contributions to motor control

      3.4.1. Touch

      3.4.2. Proprioception

      3.4.3. Vision

      3.4.4. Nervous system receptors

   3.5. Spinal Cord

      3.5.1. Sensory and motor pathways

      3.5.2. Reflexes

      3.5.3. Injury

   3.6. Brain

      3.6.1. Anatomy

      3.6.2. Injury and concussions

4. Motor Skill Learning

   4.1. Defining and assessing learning

   4.2. Stages of learning

      4.2.1. Fitts and Posner 3-stage model

      4.2.2. Gentile's 2-stage model

      4.2.3. Bernstein description of learning process

   4.3. Transfer of Learning

      4.3.1. Importance

      4.3.2. Positive

      4.3.3. Negative

      4.3.4. Bi-lateral

   4.4. Detecting errors

   4.5. Correcting errors

   4.6. Measurement

      4.6.1. Plateaus

      4.6.2. Measurement curves

      4.6.3. Retention and transfer tests

5. Instructional Methods

   5.1. Demonstration

   5.2. Verbal instructions

   5.3. Augmented feedback

      5.3.1. Feedback types

      5.3.2. Feedback timing

      5.3.3. Role of feedback

      5.3.4. Content of feedback

      5.3.5. Knowledge of performance (KP)

      5.3.6. Knowledge of results (KR)

      5.3.7. KP delay and affect on learning

6. Practice Design

   6.1. Progressions and sequencing

   6.2. Whole versus part practice

      6.2.1. Complexity and organization

      6.2.2. Part practice design and results

      6.2.3. Whole practice design and results

   6.3. Speed accuracy tradeoff

   6.4. Goal setting

      6.4.1. Outcome goals

      6.4.2. Process goals

      6.4.3. Performance goals

     6.4.4. SMART goals

   6.5. Mental practice

   6.6. Amount and distribution of practise

      6.6.1. Specificity

      6.6.2. Variable, constant, random and blocked

      6.6.3. Massed and distributed

      6.6.4. Interference

      6.6.5. Time on task

7. Motor Research

   7.1. Conducting Research

      7.1.1. Literature review

      7.1.2. Setting a hypothesis

      7.1.3. Conducting experimental procedures

      7.1.4. Analyzing statistics and interpreting results

      7.1.5. Drawing conclusions

      7.1.6. Application of class content/theories to results

      7.1.7. Creating written and graphic report

   7.2. Understanding research bias

      7.2.1. Validity

      7.2.2. Reliability



Methods of Instruction

  • Lectures
  • Discussion Groups
  • Audio- visual presentations
  • Labs- data collection, analysis, written report
  • Critical thinking and problem solving 
  • Technology Assisted Learning
  • Presentations

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation may include the following:

Labs and Lab Quizzes      10-30%

Research Project             15-25%

Tests                              20-30%

Case Study                     20-40%

Total                               100% 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate the ability to classify skills, assess learners and measure performances to improve motor skill acquisition.

2. Create practical strategies for skill improvement by applying motor performance factors as they pertain to a learner’s memory, stages of learning, attention and anxiety and/or arousal.

3. Discuss and apply motor control principles in the leading of motor skills, error detection and correction of movement and the creation of movement strategies in a variety of movement scenarios.

4. Discuss and apply the factors affecting motor skill learning as it pertains to skills, learners, movement strategies and assessments.

5. Describe a variety of instructional methods that can be effectively used to teach, lead and provide feedback in a variety of movement settings.

6. Explain how different practice types and designs may influence motor skill acquisition.

7. Apply active learning, critical thinking and problem solving in quantitative motor skills research.

course prerequisites

Courses listed here must be completed prior to this course:

  • No prerequisite courses


Courses listed here must be completed either prior to or simultaneously with this course:

  • No corequisite courses


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.