Date of Award

8-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education

Department

Kinesiology

First Advisor

Porter, Jared

Abstract

The advantages of an external focus of attention are very consistent within the motor learning literature. That is, focusing on cues external to the body while performing a task will allow for greater motor skill learning and performance benefits compared to focusing internally. Likewise, there is a vast consistency within the self-regulated learning literature. Individuals that are allowed to alter or adjust a certain characteristic of their practice environment have consistently performed significantly better than individuals following a predetermined practice arrangement mirroring the schedule determined by their self-regulated counterpart. The purpose of this study was to investigate the motor skill learning and performance benefits of choice in attentional focus instructions while executing a golf putt. It was hypothesized that in practice: the self-regulated and control groups will perform similar to each other, but both will perform better than the yoked group; all participants will perform better when focusing externally rather than internally; and a majority of participants within all groups would indicate that focusing externally rather than internally elicited greater performance benefits by the end of practice on day 1. It was also hypothesized that the self-regulated and control groups will perform similar to each other on the retention and transfer tests, but both will perform better than the yoked group; and finally, a majority of participants would indicate that focusing externally rather than internally will elicit greater performance benefits by the end of the retention and transfer tests respectively. The results from this study indicated that the self-regulated and control groups performed similar to each other during practice, retention and transfer, but did not differ significantly from the yoked group. Also, approximately only 40% of all participants believed that adopting an external focus of attention would elicit greater performance benefits than an internal focus during practice, retention and transfer. This study provides practitioners with an increased understanding of how a participant-controlled learning environment affects which focus of attention is adopted by the learner. Since the advantages of an external focus of attention are robust, and there appeared to be no clear preference for using one focus over the other when given a choice, it might be appropriate to suggest that practitioners should continue to promote an external focus of attention in their learning environments until further research investigating the interactions of self-regulated practice and attentional focus are conducted.

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