Interaction between motor ability and skill learning in children: Application of implicit and explicit approaches

Jon P. MAXWELL, Catherine Mamaid CAPIO, Rich S. W. MASTERS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


The benefits of implicit and explicit motor learning approaches in young adults have been studied extensively, but much less in children. This study investigated the relationship between fundamental motor ability and implicit/explicit learning in children using the errorless learning paradigm. First, the motor ability of 261 children (142 boys, 119 girls) aged 9–12 years (M = 9.74, SD= 0.67) was measured. Second, children with motor ability scores in the upper and lower quartile learned a golf-putting skill in either an errorless (implicit) or errorful (explicit) learning condition. Four groups were formed: Errorless High-Ability (n = 13), Errorless Low-Ability (n = 11), Errorful High-Ability (n = 10), and Errorful Low-Ability (n = 11). Learning consisted of 300 practice trials, while testing included a 50-trial retention test, followed by a 50-trial secondary task transfer test, and another 50-trial retention test. The results showed that for high- and low-ability errorless learners, motor performance was unaffected by the secondary task, as was the case for high-ability errorful learners. Low-ability errorful learners performed worse with a secondary task and were significantly poorer than the corresponding high-ability group. These results suggest that implicit motor learning (errorless) may be beneficial for children with low motor ability. The findings also show a trend that children of high motor ability might benefit from learning explicitly (errorful). Further research is recommended to examine the compatibility of implicit and explicit approaches for children of different abilities. Copyright © 2016 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-416
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Issue number4
Early online date30 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Motor Skills


Maxwell, J. P., Capio, C. M., & Masters, R. S. W. (2017). Interaction between motor ability and skill learning in children: Application of implicit and explicit approaches. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(4), 407-416. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1268211


  • Implicit motor learning
  • Errorless learning
  • Motor ability
  • Children
  • Working memory