Behavioral repertoire influences the rate and nature of learning in climbing: Implications for individualized learning design in preparation for extreme sports participation
Orth, D., Davids, K., Chow, J. Y., Brymer, E., & Seifer, L. (2018). Behavioral repertoire influences the rate and nature of learning in climbing: Implications for individualized learning design in preparation for extreme sports participation. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, Article 949. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00949
Extreme climbing where participants perform while knowing that a simple mistake could result in death requires a skill set normally acquired in non-extreme environments. In the ecological dynamics approach to perception and action, skill acquisition involves a process where the existing repertoire of behavioral capabilities (or coordination repertoire) of a learner are destabilized and re-organized through practice—this process can expand the individuals affordance boundaries allowing the individual to explore new environments. Change in coordination repertoire has been observed in bi-manual coordination and postural regulation tasks, where individuals begin practice using one mode of coordination before transitioning to another, more effective, coordination mode during practice. However, individuals may also improve through practice without qualitatively reorganizing movement system components—they do not find a new mode of coordination. To explain these individual differences during learning (i.e., whether or not a new action is discovered), a key candidate is the existing coordination repertoire present prior to practice. In this study, the learning dynamics of body configuration patterns organized with respect to an indoor climbing surface were observed and the existing repertoire of coordination evaluated prior to and after practice. Specifically, performance outcomes and movement patterns of eight beginners were observed across 42 trials of practice over a 7-week period. A pre- and post-test scanning procedure was used to determine existing patterns of movement coordination and the emergence of new movement patterns after the practice period. Data suggested the presence of different learning dynamics by examining trial-to-trial performance in terms of jerk (an indicator of climbing fluency), at the individual level of analysis. The different learning dynamics (identified qualitatively) included: continuous improvement, sudden improvement, and no improvement. Individuals showing sudden improvement appeared to develop a new movement pattern of coordination in terms of their capability to climb using new body-wall orientations, whereas those showing continuous improvement did not, they simply improved performance. The individual who did not improve in terms of jerk, improved in terms of distance climbed. We discuss implications for determining and predicting how individual differences can shape learning dynamics and interact with metastable learning design.