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PDHPE: What are the stages of learning a new skill?

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PDHPE: What are the stages of learning a new skill?

You already know that practising makes you better, but here’s a deeper look at the path from novice to legend.

Unless you’re supernaturally gifted and/or blessed, the first time you try something, you won’t be a genius at it. But with focus, practice and determination, you’ll improve. To help you visualise that process, here are three phases of mastery.

Cognitive is where you think about what you’re doing

The first time you try to hit a golf ball or throw a dart at a bullseye, you’re thinking a lot about what every part of your body is doing – your stance, the equipment in your hand, how you’re going to make the motions required… and you’ll probably miss. This is the cognitive phase, where you’re thinking, thinking, thinking and learning how everything works together.

Associative is where you think about results

In the first stage, you were thinking about how to do the thing. Here, you’re focusing on what will happen when you do the thing. As an example, you’re not trying to hit a cricket ball – you’re trying to hit a six (or at least not get bowled). When you’re learning a new skill, this is where you’ll spend the most time on your journey – practising a lot and slowly getting better, making fewer mistakes and improving over time.

Autonomous is where you do it without thinking

Throw a ball to a toddler, and they won’t catch it as easily as you will (probably…we don’t know your relative skill levels here). This is the final stage of skill mastery, and it’s where you can perform your actions without thinking, which means you can pay attention to what’s happening around you. The obvious example for most of us is walking, but think about the footy players who know what’s happening around them, where the gaps in defence are and… look, just think about Buddy Franklin (and can you believe that’s the only GIF of him in action? Honestly…).

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