The importance of progressions is a critical topic of discussion amongst coaches of any discipline.
Now, I want to reiterate that this isn’t an exhaustive description of the importance of progressions in learning but a preamble of more in-depth material I promise to offer.
In non-physical specialisations, proper knowledge of primary material ensures the success of more advanced learning. In physical disciplines, progressions also ensure appropriate skill development, and more importantly, the athlete’s safety.
For example, in a math classroom, it would be unwise of the teacher to expect students to perform multiplication operations before mastering addition. And while they could memorise timetables to give the illusion of knowing how multiplication works, they would lack the knowledge required for more advanced mathematics.
The same logic applies in the gym, especially in locomotion and inversions. Some athletes can perform complex skills without meeting logical prerequisites, but their understanding of them is limited.
Athletes with limited awareness of the mechanics of an acrobatic skill run an increased risk of “getting lost”, losing the skill (forgetting how to do it), and, at the worst of times, injuring themselves in the process.
And this is the abstraction that coaches need to entertain to ensure their athletes learn safely and adequately. Yes, it seems stereotypical, but as critical as the topic may be amongst coaching circles, the idea is lost almost everywhere else.
In epistemology (which is a fancy word we use in philosophy for the study of knowledge acquisition), we worry about three types of knowledge that are part of metacognition.
First, Declarative knowledge or Content Knowledge, or understanding our own capabilities and self-evaluation of what we know. This state is when we say or declare that we know something but do not necessarily know how to explain what we know.
Second, Procedural knowledge or Task knowledge is when we can perceive the mechanics of a task better, as its difficulty and consequences. We can see and explain more dimensions of what we do in this state but cannot still manipulate it.
And third, Conditional knowledge or Strategic knowledge is when we can set up strategies or methods to acquire new skills. In this state, we can identify conditions conducive or restrictive to learning. Here is where we begin to manipulate the abstract parts of learning.
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I submit that proper coaching should take students through these states. The simple act of understanding the different types of knowledge can help coaches adapt to fit an athlete’s needs in various stages of development.
Thank you for stopping by.
— Coach José