Motor learning and academic success
Education is an all round process of skill development. It includes a number of facets such as neurological maturity, which includes strengthening and improving the core muscles as well as overall integration of senses. (AD/HD: 2001) Then there are other issues such as group learning, independent and cooperative work and establishing the frame work of the learning process which contribute to the overall growth and development of a student. (Skill Development: 2006). The role of motor development in this activity is extremely important. Motor learning is the process of improving the smoothness and accuracy of movements. (Learning: 2006). It is a part of the development of the neurological senses and the ability to coordinate the mind and the body. This is achieved through a focus on developing neurological abilities through motor skill training. Motor learning is one of the earliest techniques which is introduced at the kindergarten level to facilitate development of mind-body coordination related to academic learning which involves a smooth movement of the fingers in relation to the commands from the brain. Thus the need for early motor learning skills is amply highlighted. There are a number of people with learning disabilities, for them there is no substitute for motor learning. Motor learning is an effective way for greater academic success as demonstrated through its symbiotic relationship with learning, impact at the first stage of education, development of writing skills, increased relevance in the computer age and utility in developing the faculties of people with learning disabilities.
Motor learning is said to be a set of internal processes associated with the practice and experience leading to permanent changes in the capability to respond of a person. (Schmidt: 1988). It would thus be evident that the very definition of motor learning indicates its significance to academic excellence as it is exclusively related to betterment of mental faculties. The first part of the definition will denote that it is an internal or a mental process so is learning a predominantly intrinsic activity. It is said to be developed through practice and experience, which is the essence of motor training. Finally it is stated that it brings about permanent changes, which is the overall aim of academic learning, change and develop people. Thus it would be evident that there is a symbiotic relationship between motor learning and academic excellence. Motor development is also said to contribute to academic success as the perceptual motor theory reveals that it is related to muscular movement, which can be effectively enhanced through improving what is known as motor movement. Motor maturity is also seen to lead to total development of a person increasing his perceptual abilities considerably which is the key to performance of academic tasks particularly at the higher level of intellectual functioning. (Bellitto: 1981). Research has also revealed that early intervention can be a key contributor to improved performance and it is thus being used at the Pre School and kinder garden level in a spiral and sequential manner as gross motor training. (Bellitto 1981).
The foundation of effective learning is laid in the kinder garden and then followed up in the initial years in school leading to the upper grades. It is also the base for learning throughout ones life. The need for a strong and effective learning process in the initial years of schooling is thus extremely important. The impact of motor learning at the kinder garden level is considerable in developing the academic abilities of children. It is easy to set the pattern of learning and working at an early stage. (Gordon: 1987). While the academic activities in kinder garden are limited to skill development for later education and functioning, these include neurological development, group learning, cooperative work and establishing the base for learning processes. (Skill Development: 2006). The initial base is exclusively built through development of the neurological processes in which motor learning is a key activity. Motor learning enables neurological integration which is the essence of an effective learner. In neurological development, the first aspect is to strengthen and develop core muscles and limbs, to build rhythm through effective work movements which will provide a sense of order and sequence which is considered essential for higher learning. The activities of motor learning are taught to children in the Kindergarten which enables them to develop their mental and brain coordination function to effect (Skill Development: 2006). The activities included in motor learning are movement actions, crafts, finger plays; than more complex skills of balance, crossing of all three midlines, wrist flexibility, fine motor coordination, visual tracking, and auditory discrimination. In the initial stage the strength of the muscles in each activity is developed and then followed up by generating coordination of these activities through overall integration achieved through motor learning. Thus motor learning is seen as an essential facet of developing academic capabilities of children from the kindergarten upwards. (Skill Development: 2006). The activities carried out in motor learning in kindergarten include rhythmic walking, balancing on one foot, hop skip and jump, moving across three to four middle lines so that brain – limb coordination is effectively achieved. The large and fine motor work also includes actions which are seemingly innocuous as listening and sitting still, drawing with crayons and activities as needle and thread and finger knitting. (Skill Development: 2006). The core of education is listening attentively, not just appearing to be listening but doing so with full attention of the mind and imbibing what ever is being said. Motor learning builds up such capacities which will contribute to academic success.
Writing skills is an important facet of academic success. Students with good writing skills are known to perform well throughout their academic careers. The need for writing skills is also highlighted in every vocation. There are specialized courses which have been developed for writing skills. One of the key facets to develop the same is said to be motor learning from the earliest kinder garden stage upwards. (Writing Skills: 2006). Writing skills courses have prescribed amongst other issues numeracy, early reading, and motor skills. Once the child’s base is established by enabling him to achieve neurological coordination, it is said that it establishes a sound base for academic success beyond the Pre School. (Writing Skills: 2006). The importance of motor learning can also be understood if we chart the progress of children in education and how it affects their performance. The importance of motor learning in kinder garden and its impact has already been highlighted. As the child progresses to elementary school, the need is for memorization, note taking, and math and science skills increases. Motor development helps in these activities which are a mix of physical and mental enhancement carried out through body mind coordination. Similar progression is seen in middle school, where skill building tools are enhanced to learn the techniques of organization. In the high school, students develop self confidence, it is a natural corollary derived from a higher level of mental coordination achieved through motor learning at an early stage.
There is a common belief that motor learning is important for activities such as learning the piano or for climbing trees. However it is equally if not more important for academic learning as it is a calibrated activity which involves critical control of the brain and the fingers. The expression of thought in learning is through writing and now increasingly through typing on the key board. Unless there is effective motor coordination, the development of thought into expression for public consumption will not take place. Motor learning thus assumes greater significance in the light of maximum work being done on computers with thought expression requiring to be carried out through transmission to input devices as mouse, key boards, electronic pens and so on. These devices require accuracy in delivery of the signal which can be achieved only through effective motor learning. Thus there is a universal need for properly calibrated movement. (Learning: 2006). Similarly the modern processes on computers require what is called as brain-computer interface, which is also perfected through motor learning.
Motor learning has been effectively used by therapists to improve the knowledge processes of the learning disabled. This is regarded as a challenge for it is easier to facilitate certain patterns than making the learning disabled adapt to these at a later stage. (Gordon: 1987). If properly administered after study of the characteristics of a person, the nature of the task and the structure of the environment, the motor learning process is known to considerably enhance learning abilities of slow learners. A learning ability is created by one or many of the processes related to imbibement of instruction. These include phonological processing; memory and attention function; processing speed; language processing; perceptual-motor processing; visual-spatial processing and executive functions (e.g. planning, monitoring and meta-cognitive abilities). (LD: 2006)
Physical therapists have only recently recognized the significance of motor learning in improving the learning processes of the challenged as well as in rehabilitation. (Winstein : 1991). The relationship between academic success and motor development in children with learning disabilities has conclusively proved this premise. Motor learning also develops confidence in such children and it acts as a motivation for them to learn and participate in school activities, which they tend to avoid due to lack of initial success in learning. (Motivation : 2002). Motor learning reduces hyper activity both mental and verbal. Hyper activity is one of the principal traits being demonstrated by those with learning disabilities. (ADHD : 1997). Thus reduction in tendencies for hyper activity leads to better academic performance.
Motor learning is an effective way for greater academic success demonstrated through its symbiotic relationship with learning, impact at the first or kindergarten stage of education, development of writing skills, increased relevance in the computer age and utility in developing the faculties of people with learning disabilities. The necessity for developing mind and body has been recognized since the ancient days when the Athenians believed that mind and body should be educated together. (Wellness : 2006). The coordination of the body and mind is achieved through motor functioning which is enhanced through motor learning. Introduced in the first stage of education, at the kindergarten it effectively impacts on academic success in later years and is also useful in developing learning faculties of slow learners.
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