Developmental and Psychological Factors Related to Children’s Observational Learning of Physical Skills

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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Visual demonstrations have long been regarded as a critical instructional method for children’s motor skill and social-emotional development. Despite their widespread importance, skill demonstrations have often been characterized by a failure to consider age related differences in children’s cognitive and physical abilities. Similarly, the potential psychological effects of modeling on children’s behaviors in the physical domain have rarely been discussed. Thus the purpose of this paper is to review theoretical and research perspectives from the motor behavior and psychology literatures about developmental and psychological factors associated with children’s modeling of motor skills. Specifically, this paper will emphasize (a) how children perceive characteristics of a visual demonstration, (b) how they translate perceptions to actions that attempt to match the skill demonstration, and (c) how observational learning can be used to enhance self-confidence and motivation in youth. Practical implications for maximizing motor skill and psychosocial development in children are addressed in each section of the paper.

Maureen R. Weiss is with the Dept. of Exercise and Movement Science, Univ. of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. Vicki Ebbeck is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR 97331. Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

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