A new method to learn to start in speed skating: A differencial learning approach

Geert J.p. Savelsbergh */**/***, Willemiek J. Kamper *, Jorine Rabius *, Jos J. De Koning * and Wolfgang Schöllhorn ****

(*) Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
(**) Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and Health, Manchester Metropolitan University, England
(***) 3Academy for Physical Education, University of Professional Education, Amsterdam, Netherlands
(****) Department of Sport Sciences, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany


J.p. Savelsbergh, G., J. Kamper, W., Rabius, J., J. De Koning, J., Schöllhorn, W. (2010). A new method to learn to start in speed skating: A differencial learning approach. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 41(4), 415-427.


The aim of this study was to examine whether it is possible to utilize the fluctuations in human motor behaviour to induce a self-organizing process in the athlete, which takes advantage of individual movement and learning characteristics. This recently developed approach is known as differencial learning and is compared to traditional learning. For that purpose, thirty-four recreational skaters participated and practised the speed skating start. A pre- post-test design was used together with a one week intervention period that included three practice sessions of one hour each. The pre- and post-test consisted out of 5 starts, and for each start, the finish time was recorded at a distance of 49 m, which included split time registrations at 5 m, 10 m, and 25 m. Based on the finish time in the pre-test, the participants were equally distributed over three practice groups: a differencial learning, learning by instruction, and control group. Analyses revealed a significant improvement for the differencial learning group in comparison to the control group. It is concluded that differencial learning is an effective method to teach the skating start to novices.

Keywords: Differential learning, Traditional learning