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Feedback Loop As A Basis For Skill Learning


The skill-feedback loop demonstrates how feedback is processed when learning a skill. The model shown below is a simplified version of how each player uses feedback to assess whether or not they have responded correctly and, if not, how they should respond correctly.

Skill Execution

The player performs the skill. The motor (neuro) programme tells the muscular system which muscles to contract, and how and when to contract them to produce the desired response. The skill execution is influenced by the player's previous learned experiences, stage of growth and development, fitness level and degree of motivation.


The player may receive two types of feedback response:

  • Intrinsic (internal) feedback
  • Extrinsic (external) feedback

Intrinsic feedback is dependent on the player's ability to ‘feel' the experience using sensory perception. If a skill was performed well, the player feels a sense of ‘correctness'. If the skill was not executed as intended, the player experiences a feeling of ‘error'. The more experienced the player, the greater the accuracy in sensory evaluation. The ability to perceive what is correct in the early stages of learning a skill is less accurate because the player's memory has not been developed enough to be able to have a good perception of correctness. Coaches should ask the player specific questions about how the skill felt when executed to encourage the player to become more self-aware. Extrinsic feedback is given by an external source such as the coach, other players, or spectators. The coach needs to be able to identify errors, provide information (feedback) appropriately and specifically, and then give instructions for the correct execution of the skill.


After receiving both intrinsic and extrinsic feedback the player must then sort the information and evaluate their performance compared to the ‘ideal model'. Developing a player's ability for self-awareness is important in providing a source of internal control rather than the player always depending on external sources (eg you as the coach) to evaluate the performance and tell them what to do. Players may not have all the information about a situation so it can be difficult for them to evaluate the feedback and make the appropriate decisions. The coach can assist this process by providing clear, precise feedback that is specific to the required performance and at a level that the player can understand. Evaluation of the performance can also be limited by the coach's ability to give feedback and the player's ability to receive feedback (ie. communication).


If the skill execution was incorrect the player must process this information further to decide what went wrong and what they can do to correct it. One of the major limitations to performance improvement is the ability of players to make sound and appropriate decisions. By giving players opportunities to decide for themselves how or what to do to fix their own errors or identify a correct performance, the coach enables the players to practise and improve their decision-making processes.