A Field Test of the Effect of Contextual Variety during Skill Acquisition

in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education

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Craig A. WrisbergThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Laboratory research in motor behavior has consistently demonstrated higher transfer when practice occurs under conditions of high contextual interference/variety (e.g., Lee & Magill, 1983; Shea & Morgan, 1979). In the present study, an attempt was made to determine whether contextual variety could be easily incorporated into a physical education class setting and whether it produced a significant influence on final skills-test performance. Four practice schedules differing in the amount of contextual variety were administered during a regular college physical education class. Beginning badminton students were matched for skill level and practiced the long and short serves according to their respective conditions at the beginning of each of six class periods. Students monitored each other’s practice sessions without significant alterations in normal class procedures. Conventional skills tests administered at the end of the semester revealed that the shortserve performance of the group receiving the highest level of contextual variety during practice was significantly superior to that of two of the other three conditions. The results are discussed in terms of possible theoretical significance for contextual-interference theory and practical relevance for physical education teachers.

Craig A. Wrisberg is with the Department of Human Performance and Sport Studies, 344 HPER, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-2700.

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