An investigation of learning advantages associated with self-control: theoretical explanation and practical application

Hartman, Jeffrey M, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bunker, Linda K., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Block, Martin, CU-Kinesiology, University of Virginia
Kelly, Luke, CU-Kinesiology, University of Virginia
Moon, Tonya, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

According to recent research in sport and exercise science, a learning environment that offers learners some form of self-control can be effective for motor skill learning; however, what has not been fully agreed upon are the reasons for these learning advantages. The present study sought to extend the knowledge base of self-controlled learning environments in three ways: (a) examine whether self-controlled feedback schedules enhance learning because they are more tailored to the learners' needs than externally controlled (i.e., yoked) feedback schedules; (b) examine whether the correspondence between performance on a given trial, and the learner's desire for and delivery of feedback under self-controlled, relative to yoked conditions, is primarily responsible for the learning benefits of self-controlled practice; and (c) examine whether learners being actually in control of the feedback schedule is critical, or whether feedback provided by an external source is equally as effective if provided after the appropriate trials. Participants (N = 90) practiced a coincidence anticipation timing task. The self-control-after condition decided after every trial during acquisition whether they wanted to receive feedback for that trial, while the self-control-before condition made that decision before each trial. Participants in the yoked conditions received feedback based on the schedule of their self-controlled counterparts. The traditional-bandwidth condition received feedback on trials that fell outside a pre-determined percentage of correctness, whereas the reverse-bandwidth condition received feedback on trials that fell within a predetermined percentage of correctness. For the first study purpose, results revealed that self-controlled participants appeared to adopt a strategy for requesting feedback. For the second study purpose, results suggested that self-controlled feedback benefits learning because learners can make a decision about feedback based on their performance on a given trial. For the third study purpose, results indicated that feedback provided by an external source was effective, provided that feedback was delivered after the appropriate trials. Suggestions are made for future studies to consider the influence, if any, of self control on the development of error detection and correction capabilities, in addition to the impact of positive feedback on learner motivation and performance.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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