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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Expert-novice differences in knowledge structures of action Vickers, Joan N.


A series of three studies was conducted to determine differences between three groups of gymnasts in a perception - eye movement study, in a problem solving - resequencing study and in an introspection study. Thirty subjects were selected and assigned to three groups based on their expertise in gymnastics. Groups one and two, elite and intermediate gymnasts, were selected from a nationally ranked gymnastic club. Group three, the novice gymnasts, were members of a championship soccer team. All subjects were female, average age 13.2 years. Differences between the groups were consistent across the three studies, lending support to the notion that as skill develops there are changes in the internal representation or knowledge structure of the athlete that are detectable by means of perception, problem solving and other cognitive tasks. In the perception study, the eye movements of the subjects were taken as they viewed slow motion slide presentations of world class gymnasts performing basic compulsory moves. In the problem solving study, the subjects resequenced sets of photos taken from the slide series used in the first experiment. The third study was an introspection study in which each subject was shown the intact photographic sequences and asked to verbally identify where in the movement they concentrated their attention, if they were performing the movement in competition. In the total sequence analysis of eye movements, differences between the elite and intermediate/novice gymnasts were confirmed by multivariate analyses in two of the six sequences and by univariate analyses of separate body segments in four of the six sequences. MANOVA also detected differences between the intermediates and novices in three of the six sequences and by univariate analysis of separate body segments in five of the six sequences. Differences were observed between the groups in how they observed the head, hips, and offbody factors. In the phase analysis of one sequence, the beam handstand, differences in eye movements were found between the groups relative to whether the beginning, mid or end phases of the sequence were being analysed. The results from the resequencing study confirmed that the elite gymnasts were both faster and more accurate than the intermediates in reconstructing the gymnastic sequences; the intermediates in turn were both faster and committed fewer errors than the novices. It was also found that the more difficult the gymnastic sequence, the more time needed to reconstruct and the greater the number of errors. The final two aspects of the research also found significant differences between the groups. First, eye fixations to specific body segments were predictive of resequencing time scores. A multiple regression analysis showed that 43.3% of the variance in the resequencing time scores was accounted for by eye fixation patterns. Second, across the six sequences, the introspection reports were congruent with the eye movement data (70.4%) but the groups differed in their selection of body segments. A log linear model analysis of the count data showed that the elite gymnasts were lower body oriented (63.5%), the intermediates were upper body oriented (73.9%), while the novices were 60% upper and 40% lower. In summary, the results were clear in showing that when asked to observe gymnastic skills or solve problems with or introspect about stimulus material from gymnastics the groups differed consistently. These differences, of mutifaceted nature, were taken as contributing to the identification of relevant attributes of the knowledge structure of gymnasts. Implications of these findings were discussed in terms of their applicability to research on skill acquisition, and their potential role as diagnostic and prescriptive factors in teaching and coaching.

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