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Research & Investigations in Sports Medicine

Motor Learning and Motor Development as a Motor Competence Problem Throughout Lifespan

Maria Teresa Cattuzzo*

University of Pernambuco, Brazil

*Corresponding author: Maria Teresa Cattuzzo, PhD, University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil, Email:

Submission: July 10, 2018;Published: October 29, 2018

DOI: 10.31031/RISM.2018.04.000583

ISSN 2577-1914
Volume4 Issue1


Motor learning and motor development are processes dealing with motor behavior changes through time. In fact, both phenomena are be distinguished when some new behavior is overt in observable motor actions. In motor development, the changes are associated with given lifetime periods and in the motor learning the changes are associated with some specific practice experience. Still, for both phenomena, it is not enough to perform a new action, but such action must to meet it aim reliably, i.e., the performer must be frequently successful, even if there are demands challenging him/ her. Thus, motor learning and motor development deal with the motor skills acquisition and/or their adjustments; both phenomena imply that the human motor system can deal with motor challenges when he/she is in face to them.

Some scholars must be accessed when one talks about motor skill. In one most remarkable book to motor behavior field written in 1940’s decade, but acknowledged some decades later1 , Bernstein [1] stated that the dexterity/skill2 , is the ability to adequately solve any emerging motor problem correctly, quickly, rationally and resourcefully. Elliott & Connolly [2] offered a um more piece of the puzzle about what is the skill by assuming it is “an ability to achieve defined goals with an efficiency beyond that of inexperienced person” (p.135) and hypothesizing that “… skill entails an ability-a competence-which underlies assessed performance on specific tasks” (p. 135/136). And, more importantly, to Elliott & Connolly [1], competence is related to the organization underlying the child’s behavioral adjustment to his/her environment

Following the Bernstein’s [1] and Elliott & Connolly’s theoretical propositions, Jack Keogh in 1970’s, ingeniously and beautifully, offered a more encompassing view about skill and motor competence by adding the explanations about the consistency and the constancy of movement, both expressions of motor competence. Movement consistency is the competency to perform sequences of movement or skills, which are suitable for solving everyday motor problems, e.g., to stand, walking, grasping or other basic motor skills. In fact, for the infant or young child to meet such movement consistency is the main problem to be solved at that time [3]. Thus, to organize the human motor system, in order to show stable basic motor patterns, consistency is the first and main expression of motor competence in childhood; after that, older children solve regularly movement problems with a substantial level of consistency. Next, a harder problem to human motor competence is to achieve the movement constancy, i,e., the flexible use of the movement consistencies in a variety of circumstances [3]. In such view, consistency and constancy are closed linked: the constancy is only possible if there was consistency of movements firstly, then, movement consistency must be increased when a movement skill can be used in numerous circumstances, as movement constancy develops. In sum, to a competent motor performance, the consistency and the constancy are crucial. Still, if the constancy follows the consistency, one can expect the operational measure of motor competence must to contemplate such developmental issue.

In one very hot paper to motor behavior field titled “A Developmental Perspective on the Role of Motor Skill Competence in Physical Activity: An Emergent Relationship”, Stodden et al. [4] recovered the motor competence study in a very strategic way, by relating it with the physical activity, perceived motor competence and physical fitness. They proposed an operational definition to motor competence, as the proficiency in common fundamental motor skills including object control and locomotor skills. This definition is very fitted to theoretical model proposed, as well as it is aligned with the empirical data from literature at that time which based the proposal. In that paper, Stodden et al. [4] and colleagues explored the early and later childhood phases of life, and for typical children in such phases to meet the consistency in the HMF is a genuine problem to solve. In fact, the main tools used to assess motor competence in childhood deals with gross motor performance, e.g., Test of Gross Development 2nd edition, (TGMD- 2, Ulrich, 2000) and Körperkoordinationstest für Kinder (KTK, Kiphard & Schilling, 1974). One should to take care to use these two tools interchangeably, because they deal with different aspects of gross motor competence, as recently remarked [5]. Conversely but complementary, some researchers have proposed the importance to include the fine motor skills in the theoretical definition of motor competence, like D’Hondt and colleagues (2009; 2013) and Sigmundson and Haga (2012; 2016).

Foot Note

1 On the dexterity and its development is the Bernstein’s book written at the end of the 1940s in Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but the second war and political issues delayed about five decades its circulation.

2 Further, in the same book, Newell holds skill as synonymous for the term dexterity used by Bernstein (p. 398)

The propositions of the Stodden et al. [4] has been confirmed markedly. Robinson et al. [6] in a critical review, showed the success of that theoretical model to the scientific community. This renewed view about the emergent relationship (as the article’s title deliveries) is a change of view between physical activity and motor behavior areas. The closed link between energetic element (physical activity) and control element (motor competence) in the human system was really important change in the perspective, if one wants to cope with the health like a systemic subject. The singular model tailored by Stodden [4] and friends, brings more two important elements, the perceived motor competence and physical fitness. The choosing of these elements was not trivial, since it was based in empirical results from motor behavior and health outcomes studies. In accord to Hopkins et al. [7] patterns of human behavior can be explained by changes in the fundamental patterns of coexistence among various components of the developing system; when a component changes, a new state of coexistence can emerge, a state in which the observable behavior consists of new and striking properties [7].

But, in my opinion, the beauty and power of the model was to show as the elements in interaction and their aim outcome (the status of weight) back feeds the system. This feedback mechanism, named positive feedback [8] typical from complex and open systems, works reinforcing the direction of the consequence, in a “gain-gain” mode: if the interaction elements results in a negative outcome (not healthy weight status) this tendency will be reinforced, the negative spiral of engagement in the model; conversely, if the interaction results in a positive outcome (healthy weight status), this tendency has higher chance to remain, the negative spiral of engagement. In sum, to explore the interactions between the motor behavioral elements in childhood, with special emphasis on the coexistence between the level of physical activity and motor competence, tends to be an important item in a research agenda that considers that health incorporates a style of active life and that it can be established early in the life of the individual [9].

However, some issue points must be elected if one wants to continue built a true developmental theory about the relationship between motor competence and health outcomes. For example, urges to examine the developmental approach assumed by that model because, as such, it should be to explore the motor competence in others phases of life, covering the cycle life full. By assuming the life span examination an important issue is about the operational definition of motor competence, which, needs to include all consistency, constancy, gross and fine gross skills.


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  2. Elliott J, Connolly K (1974) Hierarchical structure in skill development. In: Connolly KJ, Bruner JS (Eds.), The growth of competence. Academic Press, London, UK, pp.109-127.
  3. Keogh JF (1977) The study of movement skill development. Quest 28(1): 76-88.
  4. Stodden DF, Goodway JD, Langendorfer SJ, Roberton MA, Rudsill ME, et al. (2008) A developmental perspective on the role of motor skill competence in physical activity: an emergent relationship. Quest: 60(2): 290-306.
  5. Ré AH, Logan SW, Cattuzzo MT, Henrique RS, Tudela MC, et al. (2018) Comparison of motor competence levels on two assessments across childhood. Journal of sports sciences 36(1): 1-6.
  6. Robinson LE, Stodden DF, Barnett LM, Lopes VP, Logan SW, et al. (2015) Motor competence and its effect on positive developmental trajectories of health. Sports Medicine 45(9): 1273-1284.
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  9. Newell KM (1996) Change in movement and skill: Learning, retention, and transfer. In: Latash ML, Turvey MT (Eds.), Dexterity and its development. Mahwah, Erlbaum, USA, pp. 393-429.

© 2018 Maria Teresa Cattuzzo . This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.