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Concept: The measurement of motor performance is critical to understanding motor learning.

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Describe the differences between and give examples of performance outcome measures and performance production measures

  • Describe the differences among simple, choice, and discrimination RT situations

  • Describe three measures for measuring performance outcome accuracy for skills that require discrete spatial and/or temporal accuracy in one and two dimensions and for continuous skills that require spatial and temporal accuracy

  • Define three kinematic measures of motion and describe one way to calculate each measure for a specific movement

  • Describe ways that EMG can be used to provide information about human movement

  • Describe several techniques for measuring brain activity during the performance of a motor skill

  • Describe how angle-angle diagrams provide useful information about the coordination characteristics of limbs or limb segments

  • Describe two methods of quantifying the measurement of coordination during the performance of a motor skill


Suppose that you are a physical educator teaching your students a tennis serve. What characteristic of performance will you measure to assess students’ progress? Consider a few possibilities. You could count the number of serves that land in and out of the proper service court. Or you could mark the service court in some way so that the “better” serves, in terms of where they land, are scored higher than others. Or you could develop a measure that is concerned with the students’ serving form.

Now imagine that you are a physical therapist helping a stroke patient learning to walk again. How will you measure your patient’s progress to determine if what you are doing is beneficial to his or her rehabilitation? You have several possible walking characteristics to choose from. For example, you could count the number of steps made or the distance walked on each walking attempt; these measures could give you some general indicators of progress. If you wanted to know more about some specific walking-related characteristics, you could measure the balance and postural stability of the person as he or she walked.

Or you could assess the biomechanical progress the person was making by analyzing the kinematic characteristics of the movements of the legs, trunk, and arms. Each of these measurements can be valuable and will tell you something different about the person’s walking performance.

In both of these performance assessment situations, your important concern as an educator or therapist is using a performance measure, or measures, to make as assessment. As a first step in addressing this problem, you must determine which aspects of performance you should measure to make a valid performance assessment. Then, you must determine how to measure those aspects of performance. The following discussion will help you to know how to accomplish this two-step measurement process by describing several different motor skill performance measures. Throughout this text, we will ...

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