Skill acquisition: History, questions, and theories

Craig P. Speelman and Kim Kirsner

in Beyond the Learning Curve

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780198570417
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191708657 | DOI:
 Skill acquisition: History, questions, and theories

Show Summary Details


This chapter presents the history of research into skill acquisition, and reviews the key questions and theories that have framed this research. Issues include the existence of plateaus in learning curves, the effects of part versus whole task training and massed versus distributed practice, knowledge of results, the form of learning curves and their mathematical description, the power law of practice, transfer of training, and phases of skill acquisition. Theories reviewed are divided up into those that propose that skill acquisition proceeds through a process of strategy refinement (e.g., the theories of Crossman, Anderson (ACT-R), Newell et al. (SOAR), and MacKay, as well as some connectionist theories) as opposed to those that propose that skilled performance results from improved memory retrieval (e.g., the theories of Logan (Instance theory) and Palmeri (EBRW)). The theories are evaluated in terms of their ability to provide accounts versus explanations of the power law of practice.

Keywords: plateaus in learning curves; part task training; whole task training; massed practice; distributed practice; knowledge of results; power law of practice; transfer of training; skill acquisition phases; ACT-R

Chapter.  16425 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.