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Walter E. Davis

Several problems of current motor assessment practices and instruments used for populations with handicapping conditions, are identified from recent surveys and a literature review. Such problems are the basis for an examination of some of the theoretical assumptions underlying current instrumentation and practice. These assumptions are challenged from the perspective of emerging theories of motor control, development, and perception. The traditional standardized approach, the diagnostic approach, and the criterion-referenced approach are considered. Although the criterion-referenced approach is believed to hold the most promise, it has serious shortcomings. Substantial and radical changes in constructing assessment instruments are suggested.

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Walter E. Davis

Establishing goals for adapted physical education is of paramount importance. However, establishing goals is more than writing behavioral objectives and completing an IEP. Understanding and using goals is essential for effective teaching behaviors and ultimately for learning. For this purpose three important aspects of goals are introduced: intention, purpose, and meaning. A distinction is also made between primary and concomitant goals. The primary goals are the improvement of physical and motor fitness and the development and acquisition of motor skills. Concomitant means being achieved along with, and these goals include language, social, and cognitive skills. Also, a distinction is made between abstract concepts and concrete actions or tasks. Finally, providing information about the goal of each task is a major function of the instructor. Three modes of presentation are described. Goals may be specified symbolically (verbally), iconically (by demonstrations), or actively (by having the students move in a structured environment). Adherence to and further development of these concepts is important to the improvement of the teaching/learning process in adapted physical education.

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Walter E. Davis

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Walter E. Davis and Terry L. Rizzo

The detrimental effects of labeling persons as disabled is well known to special educators, many of whom have advocated doing away with labels altogether. However, as a fundamental of science, classification is extremely important. The problem may not be the labeling process per se but one of societal attitudes. Labels are both a product and provocation of attitudes. A review of the current classification systems pinpoints eight characteristics that are problematic in classifying motor disorders. Gibson’s (1977) theory of affordance offers one way of providing a more accurate and useful labeling system, and at the same time addressing, in part, the negative attitude problem. In an affordance approach, the label applies to the behavior as a product of the person/environment system rather than to the person alone, which is the traditional approach. The new classification system offered here, although not complete, differs from the traditional systems in several ways and is seen as useful to researchers and educators alike.

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Allen W. Burton and Walter E. Davis

Balance is an integral part of most movement activities, but assessing its contribution to overall movement performance and identifying possible balance deficits poses a complex problem. Although almost all of the adapted physical education textbooks published in the last 10 years include a section on balance, adapted physical educators need a more in-depth understanding of the issues related to the assessment of balance and postural control that presently may be gained only by going directly to the extensive research base that cuts across many fields of inquiry. Thus the purpose of this paper is to (a) provide a brief overview of the current knowledge base related to balance, with an emphasis on balance deficits, and (b) describe the types of tasks used to assess balance, discuss some problems involved in evaluating balance in adapted physical education, and provide some suggestions on how to improve balance assessment procedures in adapted physical education.

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Walter E. Davis and Allen W. Burton

A new approach to task analysis is presented based upon an ecological theory of perception and current motor development and control theories. The ecological task analysis (ETA) approach stands in sharp contrast to more traditional approaches and offers procedures equally applicable to instruction and assessment of movement performance as well as to applied research. The strengths of the ETA approach lie in (a) its grounding in current motor development and control theories, (b) its linking of the task requirements, environmental conditions, and performer characteristics, (c) its application of a functional and dynamic approach to instruction and assessment, and (d) its integration of instruction and assessment procedures. Following a discussion of the traditional approach and ecological theory, four concepts are presented that emanate from Gibson’s theory of affordances. From these concepts ETA procedures are derived. Applied research questions relating to task analysis are also implied from the ecological approach and are presented in the final section.

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Allen W. Burton and Walter E. Davis

An ecological model of motor behavior presented by Davis and Burton (12) suggests that the qualitative and quantitative aspects of motor behavior for all persons emerge from three sets of constraints: performer, environmental, and task. The involvement and performance of movement activities by children with physical impairments may be optimized by carefully manipulating one or more of these three types of constraints, and by recognizing and accepting that the optimal movement patterns used by these children with unique performer constraints may differ from those exhibited by other children.

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Marcel Bouffard, William B. Strean and Walter E. Davis

Philosophical and methodological assumptions often made by researchers working at the behavioral level of analysis in adapted physical activity are reviewed. Particular attention is given to movement skill acquisition research guided by a cognitive science or information processing approach and an ecological task analysis approach. In the final section of this paper, emerging views are used to illustrate other assumptions often tacitly made by movement skill researchers. Alternative possibilities offered by recent perspectives are also presented.

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Walter E. Davis, William A. Sparrow and Terry Ward

A fractionation technique was employed to determine the locus of reaction time delay in Down syndrome (DS) and other adult subjects with mental retardation (MH). Twenty-three subjects (8 nondisabled, 8 MH, and 7 DS) responded to a light, sound, and combination light/sound signal. Dependent measures of premotor time, motor time, total reaction time, and movement time were obtained during a 20° elbow extension movement and were analyzed separately. As expected, both MH and DS subjects were slower and more variable in their responses than the subjects without disabilities. In turn, DS subjects were significantly slower but not more variable than the MH subjects. There were no significant differences between the DS and MH subjects on movement times. Evidence for both a specific (premotor) and a generalized (both premotor and motor) locus of delay was found. Some difference in signal effect was also found for the DS subjects.

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Walter E. Davis, Gary Kamen, Paul Surburg and Stuart Schleien