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Learning by doing in sports & exercise science

Learning pure science has always been associated with laboratory works. Over the years, some started to shift from the laboratory set-up and starts using the so called "interactive" learning via online applications. Scientific theories are able to be explained in vivid graphical details within some fraction of time. The information are able to be retrieved from any part of the world, as long as we have access to the gadget and internet network.

Due to all of above, online learning has been popularized. Many jump on-board. Trying to make everything becoming digital. From learning the S.W.O.T analysis for business management up till playing sports or musical instruments.

But the questions is, does it really works? My personal opinion, YES and NO. Yes, it may works in certain conditions, for certain types of courses (especially the pure theoretical one). But for sports and exercise science, i still do believes that learning by doing is still the best teaching and learning methods.

Online learning is as good as to how capable the learners able to test and apply the sports and exercise science information provided. Take learning sports skills online for example. The online learning provider no doubt may able to provide all videos and explanations on each skills involved. But the learners, while able to 'absorb' all of the information, digest it, but yet, may not able to properly play or coach the sports skills if suddenly just thrown onto the field with all the knowledge from the online learning. There is no experience involved. Hands-on learning experience has not been happening. You need certain numbers of players to play certain types of team sports, and yet you are learning alone in your comfortable environment. No body contact, no experiencing the sloppiness trying to hold or kick the ball, no blisters out of shoes without socks.

In term of the "science" part, sports and exercise science practitioners (academicians, trainers, coaches, athletes, fitness clients etc) not just needed the scientific knowledge, but must be able to apply the science into real practice. And applying science with the sports or exercise skills must involve experience of doing it. What more if learning towards becoming able to test and monitor (not just scientist or academician, even coaches still need to assess for performance monitoring, and not everyone have support team for sports science services).

But again, some point to think about. What IF it depends on what is the aim of the learning? If the aim of the course is just to expose the students on what is sports science, than they may not need to do it. If the aim or desired learning outcome is the students able to do it (eg biomechanics experiments or squat movement analysis), than learning by doing may seems the best way.

As a conclusion, this small piece of article just would like to emphasis on the hypothesis that learning by doing seems to be the best learning method for sports and exercise science area of study. It does not means that other learning methods are not relevant, it is just that, learning by doing should be the dominating method in sports science. That is the author's humble opinion (hypothesis?).



Bot, L., Gossiaux, P. B., Rauch, C. P., & Tabiou, S. (2005). ‘Learning by doing’: a teaching method for active learning in scientific graduate education. European journal of engineering education, 30(1), 105-119.

Anzai, Y., & Simon, H. A. (1979). The theory of learning by doing. Psychological review, 86(2), 124.

Hodson, D. (2014). Learning science, learning about science, doing science: Different goals demand different learning methods. International Journal of Science Education, 36(15), 2534-2553.


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