The Fits and Posner multi-stage theory
Fits and Posner identify 3 particular stages of learning: the cognitive, the associative, and the autonomous stage. So as the learner progresses through these stages they will have gone from an unskilled performance with lots of errors to a skilled performance with only very minor errors.
The Cognitive Stage:
This is the initial stage of learning. What occurs in this initial stage is cognitive aspects such as understanding the nature and/or goal of the activity or activities. To give an example of this stage I will talk about a student first learning to kick an Aussie rules football. The student has been receiving instruction from the teacher via visual and auditory senses. Instructions such as: A) How to hold the ball? B) The sequence of the run-up? C) How to drop the ball D) When and where to drop the ball E) Always point your toe before and after striking F) Follow through with kicking foot. The student will then have initial trials using this information. Initial trials will be full of errors. This initial stage requires a high level of concentration and attention. In this initial stage students need specific instructions to help them correct there errors as the student will not often know how to correct it them self.
The Associative Stage:
This is the middle stage of learning where the basis of a skill has been established and learned and the learner can then start to refine the given skill. At this stage the young footballer would have learnt the technique of kicking the football, now its time to practice kicking for accuracy or kick to somebody on the move and start to “associate” her/him self with the learning situation. This stage requires less concentration that the cognitive stage but still requires a considerable amount. Errors will gradually decrease during this stage. The instructor or teachers role in this stage is to provide the learner with additional information focusing on specific actions and point out relevant cues.
The Autonomous Stage:
This is the final stage of learning where after much practice, the learner has mastered the skill. In this stage the learner can perform the skill with seemingly little effort and few errors. The name autonomous suggests that the skill has become almost automatic and requires little concentration and attention. In this stage the learner can begin to strategise about game situations rather than worrying about how much force to apply or the trajectory of the kick. In this stage the instructor or teacher needs only to facilitate the learning situation as the learner will have the knowledge to correct ones own errors.