Greg Dea: Feedback and Cueing – Making Them Work Together

Movement is an output, a performance, a behavior. When coaching, we decide if a movement is satisfactory or not. The keen eye of the professional uses the process of training movement to look for mistakes that are outside the realm of acceptable. This should be a “performance bandwidth” based on three elements of acceptable parameters of the specific population and task or safety ranges. (Richard A. Schmidt & Lee, 1999, 2014)

A movement that has a mistake deemed undesirable or unacceptable is one that:

  1. Reduces the efficiency of the movement,
  2. Lessens the chance of success, or
  3. Increases the risk of injury.

When we see these movements outside the bandwidth, we can use the coaching strategies of feedback and cueing to change the person’s movement. In this series of articles, I’ll reveal the main forms of feedback and cueing used to change behavior in movement, that is, performance. References are provided in text and at the end of the article.

In this first article, the different forms of feedback are revealed.

Intrinsic feedback
Intrinsic feedback relates to how a person feels when they move. Using intrinsic feedback has the objective of revealing to the client what they feel when they move. There are two distinct times when we as coaches and therapists should draw the client’s attention to how they feel:

  1. When the client performs a movement satisfactorily, and
  2. When the client performs a movement unsatisfactorily.

Both are important to provide the client with contrast, so they know what it feels like to do a movement well and poorly. This allows for error detection and self-correction, thus, learning.

Here’s a practical tip: When the client performs unsatisfactorily, ask them how it feels, or what it looks like to them.

Often, they will not have been paying attention to how they feel so it is useful to have them repeat the task and describe to you what they are feeling when they do it, or where they are feeling something. Sometimes we may need to sharpen their awareness by asking them in what part of their body do they feel something as “most active.” Once they reply, take note of their words for how it feels. Instruct them to repeat the movement to get that feeling again by using their words to connect them to how they feel.

Augmented Feedback
Once we’ve drawn attention to how the client feels when they move, we can use augmented feedback (that which comes from the instructor), which has the goal to change behavior by alerting the individual to the closeness to the satisfactory movement. A practical example is described three paragraphs down . . . but first, let me describe why augmented feedback partners so effectively to intrinsic feedback.

A key concept that links intrinsic and augmented feedback is that the former provides knowledge of the how the kinematic performance feels while the latter provides knowledge of the result of the movement.

This difference relates to, but is subtly different to, a concept taught by esteemed sprints and jumps coach, Professor of Motor Learning, Frans Bosch. Professor Bosch, who has raised a key error of our coaching industry to coach individual parts of a pattern, drawing the client’s attention to the way they move, the biomechanics of their movement. This he referred to as “Knowledge of Performance (KP).” Bosch draws on a large body of motor control research to indicate that a client learns better by knowing when they move more successfully as a pattern or task. This he described as the “Knowledge of Result (KR).” Intrinsic and augmented feedback help us overcome the subtle error of directing a client’s attention to KP by switching their attention to how a particular performance feels when it results in a satisfactory or unsatisfactory way (knowledge of the feel of performance – KFP). This changes our error from knowledge of performance (KP), which doesn’t help learning, to knowledge of feel of performance when that performance is a particular result (KFP), which does help learning.

Picture this: a client performs a task such as swinging a tennis racquet at a ball with the intention of hitting the ball into the far left backcourt, near the baseline. Let’s say that the ball lands to the right of the court, close to the net. They, and we, can see that the error of that movement task has a distance component and a direction component. We can instantaneously describe that the ball landed in front of the intended zone (the forecourt instead of the backcourt) – this is a direction – “in front of.” We can also instantaneously describe that the ball landed quite a large distance from the intended zone, since the forecourt near the net is relatively far from the backcourt near the baseline. This provides a distance component – “far from.”

Practical tips: When the client performs, after getting intrinsic feedback from them, tell them how far away they were from the target, and in what direction this error was. “Your ball landed about 25 feet short of the baseline and to the right of the target zone.” Instruct them to repeat the movement to get closer to the target. To improve, the individual will have to organize themselves for improved efficiency or power in a way that only their nervous system can do, based on the external target.

Let’s look at a gym-based example. A client is instructed to toss a medicine ball at a wall. Augmented feedback could be, “Your medicine ball toss was three feet below the target on the wall.” The component “Three feet . . . ” gives magnitude of the error, while “below” gives direction.

Augmented feedback, therefore, has a direction and a magnitude of the error of the result.


Combining Intrinsic Augmented Feedback in a Bandwidth
Combining intrinsic and augmented feedback would be done by asking the client what they felt, or where they felt it, when they hit the tennis ball to land in the forecourt. Similarly, what they felt, or where they felt it, when they tossed the medicine ball to land three feet below the target. When the client “reorganizes” their movement pattern to be closer to the target result, we can draw their attention to the improved result (knowledge of the result – KR) and then ask them what they felt, or where they felt it, when they performed it better (knowledge of the feel of their performance – KFP).

When a movement exceeds a tolerance for being satisfactory, it is deemed outside the bandwidth of acceptable and should be corrected. As stated in the introduction, we make the determination that a movement task is not acceptable if it is well outside what is a population norm or task norm or safety norm. This bandwidth, with tolerance, allows us to set a target for movement tasks but retain a tolerance for some deviation from that target – this permits natural movement variation and prevents perfection-driven training which lowers the chance of success. Let me reiterate that – if we strive for perfection with movement, we lower the chance of success, thereby reducing the ability for a client to detect the significant errors. By providing a bandwidth with tolerance, retention of learning is improved. By providing a bandwidth with tolerance, it reduces the amount of corrective feedback and balances out corrective feedback to positive comments. Bandwidth feedback limits feedback only to “significant” errors.

Coaching Pearl of Wisdom: The Use of Video in Feedback (Richard A. Schmidt & Lee, 1999, 2014)

Using video to analyze movement, by itself, is suggested by research evidence to be “rather ineffective.” This is particularly so if viewing is undirected (there are more positive effects on learning when certain aspects of the video are pointed out.) Video feedback may be no better than providing knowledge of the result. It appears to be better when augmented by feedback from the instructor that draws the individual’s attention to important details and away from irrelevant details.

Coaching Pearl of Wisdom: Timing of Feedback
Feedback during movement, known as Concurrent feedback

Feedback delivered during the movement aims to correct errors and direct a person closer to the goal. Augmented information about the movement error is provided by auditory, visual and tactile or kinesthetic means while the person is moving. This helps the learner correct mistakes quickly or to avoid making them.

In a very early study (Annett, 1959), subjects with concurrent feedback improved performance but were unable to successfully learn the task without the feedback. Similar results were also seen in more recent years (R. A. Schmidt & Wulf, 1997).

Feedback by tactile or kinesthetic means is also known as “physical guidance feedback” – it occurs when feedback is provided by the therapist or a device. This aims to directly prevent making mistakes. The learner is forced to produce “correct” movement patterning. The goal is to:

  1. Reduce or eliminate errors,
  2. Ensure the correct pattern is carried out

This is important when the movement is dangerous, for example in gymnastics tumbling, to prevent harm from falls; or swimming, with flotation devices; or where mistakes can be costly such as flying or driving. This may also be important when the person has a structural instability such as a ligament that is ruptured that cannot control joint movement.

Research suggests while learning may be enhanced by small amounts of concurrent or guidance feedback, the negative impact on learning accrues quickly. (Armstrong, 1970)

The above picture shows that in transfer trials performed with concurrent or physical guidance feedback, individuals performed poorly, raising doubt as to the value of guidance techniques as learning aids (Armstrong, 1970).

Feedback After Movement – Option 1 = Immediate
Research shows feedback immediately after movement is detrimental to learning. It might block the learner from processing intrinsic feedback. For example, the client does not get the opportunity to think about how the movement sounded, looked or felt – this timing of feedback restricts the detection of errors.

Feedback After Movement – Option 2 = Delayed
Practical tips: It is recommended that when a coach wants to teach a movement to an individual, the coach should lengthen the time between movement and its feedback. Also, they should ensure the interval is devoid of other attention-demanding activities (for example, conversation or other movement skills).

Questions often arise, “How long should I wait before giving feedback?” Research suggests that without other activities in the interval between movement and feedback (several seconds to minutes), the instructor doesn’t need to worry about the delay in feedback.

Filled-Feedback Delays
Between the movement task and it’s feedback, if another movement task or cognitive task (such as providing feedback to another person) is undertaken, it generally degrades learning. (Swinnen, 1990)

Practical tips: A coach may create better improvement if they delay feedback until after several trials. After a trial, the same movement is performed in the interval between the first trial and the feedback. For example, in a sit to stand test, “in your first trial, your knees caved in.” The repeat trials, without instructor augmented feedback, may raise awareness of intrinsic feedback. It may be more effective than presenting feedback after each trial. (Anderson, Magill, Sekiya, & Ryan, 2005)

Practical tips: A coach may also create better improvement in movement quality if the individual estimates the success of their own task performance. If a person estimates their performance and receives augmented feedback about the results, they will improve better than just getting augmented feedback. Estimating performance is so effective that if the coach/instructor gives feedback 100% of the time (detrimental to learning), the negative effects of 100% feedback are reversed by the individual estimating success. (Liu & Wrisberg, 1997)

Post-Feedback Delay
Practical tips: There should be at least five seconds between feedback and next trial. Performance suffers if it’s less than five seconds. Longer delays usually do not matter. (Richard A. Schmidt & Lee, 2014)

Summary
There are many options for feedback and the above article summaries key concepts. The main point is that we should draw attention to how/where the client feels when they perform a movement satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily, and we can use feedback in a variety of ways (auditory, visual, tactile/kinesthetic) and timings, tending towards delayed once the client has performed successfully.


Greg DeaGreg Dea is a Sports Physiotherapist who recently finished working for FIVB World Cup winner’s, China Women’s Volleyball team. Dea holds the Australian Physiotherapy Association title of Sports Physiotherapist.  This is a protected title, with strict post graduate education requirements, including experience, expertise and examinations in Sports Physiotherapy. Prior to his current role, Greg served two years as head physiotherapist and sports medicine coordinator at the Northern Territory Football Club, a semi-professional Australian Football Club. During that that time, the Australian Football Club achieved record-breaking premiership cup success and were finalists the second year.  Greg has also served in various positions in Australian and British Defence Force environments in Australia, England and Germany, and private practice clinics in Australia.


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Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., Sekiya, H., & Ryan, G. (2005). Support for an explanation of the guidance effect in motor skill learning. J Mot Behav, 37(3), 231-238. doi:10.3200/JMBR.37.3.231-238

Annett, J. (1959). Learning a pressure under conditions of immediate and delayed knowledge of results. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 11(1), 3-15. doi:10.1080/17470215908416281

Armstrong, T. R. (1970). Training for the production of memorized movement patterns. Available from http://worldcat.org /z-wcorg/ database.

Liu, J., & Wrisberg, C. A. (1997). The effect of knowledge of results delay and the subjective estimation of movement form on the acquisition and retention of a motor skill. Res Q Exerc Sport, 68(2), 145-151. doi:10.1080/02701367.1997.10607990

Schmidt, R. A., & Lee, T. D. (1999). Motor control and learning : a behavioral emphasis (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Schmidt, R. A., & Lee, T. D. (2014). Motor learning and performance : from principles to application (Fifth edition. ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Schmidt, R. A., & Wulf, G. (1997). Continuous concurrent feedback degrades skill learning: implications for training and simulation. Hum Factors, 39(4), 509-525. doi:10.1518/001872097778667979

Swinnen, S. (1990). Interpolated activities during the knowledge-of-results delay and post-knowledge-of-results interval: Effects on performance and learning. . Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 16, 14.

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