Motor teaching and motor learning

Why therapists care about motor learning: "As we all discover early in our careers, it is easy enough to 'facilitate' a certain pattern or movement. What is difficult is to get patients to use that pattern when they are actually carrying out some functional activity. This is the fundamental challenge facing rehabilitation therapists."

Gordon, J. (1987). Assumptions underlying physical therapy intervention: Theoretical and historical approaches. In J.H. Carr, R.B. Shepherd, et al. Movement science: Foundations for physical therapy in rehabilitation. Rockville, MD: Aspen.


Tasks and strategies for the motor teacher:

The motor teacher must assess:

Newell Triangle

Richard Schmidt's widely quoted definition of motor learning:

"Motor learning is a set of [internal] processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for responding" (Schmidt, 1988, p. 346).

Key elements in Schmidt's definition:


Motor learning and the rehabilitation sciences:

One might ask why this valuable information was never more fully developed. One explanation may be that in an attempt to more clearly define its own domain, the physical therapy profession turned inward and, in so doing, disassociated itself from related, but nonclinical, fields.

Winstein, C.J. (1991). Knowledge of results and motor learning -implications for physical therapy. Physical Therapy, 71, 140-149.

Although occupational therapists teach motor skills, most therapists are not trained as extensively in skill acquisition strategies as are physical educators and coaches. Mosey attributed this lack of attention to the teaching-learning process to therapistsí desire to disassociate themselves from the image of being teachers. Being a therapist is regarded as more prestigious than being a teacher.

Poole, J.L.(1991). Application of motor learning principles in occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45, 531-537.


Last updated 11-26-01 ©Dave Thompson PT You are visitor