A framework for demonstrating practice schedule effects in skill acquisition
Gane, Brian Douglas
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I outline a framework for researching the effects of practice schedule on skill acquisition, based upon stage theories of information processing and stage theories of skill acquisition. Skilled performance requires stimulus identification, response selection, and response execution. I hypothesize that practice schedule affects learning in two types of information processing stages: stimulus-oriented and response-oriented stages. The loci of these effects differ based on the stage. In stimulus-oriented stages, practice schedule affects concept and categorization learning via contiguity of exemplars and feature saliency. In response-oriented stages, practice schedule affects the efficiency with which individuals produce a response by affecting response preparation. I evaluated this framework and theory with 4 experiments that manipulated practice schedule and amount of practice, in 2 domains with different information processing demands. Experiments~1~and~2 focused on response-oriented stages via a task that required participants to execute a multisegment movement according to a target time. Experiments~3~and~4 focused on stimulus-oriented stages via a task that required participants to categorize football play diagrams. Within the 2 task domains the amount of acquisition practice was manipulated to test whether different durations of acquisition training changed how practice schedules affected retention and transfer performance. The practice schedule manipulation had reliable effects on performance and learning when task performance involved either response preparation or induction of categorization rules. Practice schedule did not affect performance or learning when task performance involved categorization decisions, after the rules had been learned. Additionally, I report a novel method for quantifying amount of practice that allows comparisons across task domains.