Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Kinesiology



Major Advisor

Laura Jones Petranek, Ph.D.


Nicole D. Bolter, Ph.D.


Scott A. Conger, Ph.D.


Research has shown that externally focused instruction and feedback has positive effects on skill acquisition and performance outcomes among adults (Wulf, 2007, 2013). However, in children, there are mixed findings as to whether an external or internal focus of attention is most effective (Chiviacowsky, Wulf, & Ávila, 2013; Emanuel, Jarus, & Bart, 2008; Perreault, 2013; Thorn, 2006; Wulf, Chiviacowsky, Schiller, & Ávila, 2010). Currently, there is a gap in the attentional focus literature and a need to research young children, under the age of eight, whose cognitive development is not as matured as older children or adults (Gallagher & Thomas, 1980, 1984, 1986). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of attentional focused instruction and feedback on the performance outcome of an underhand tossing task among first graders. It was hypothesized the external focused group would perform with better outcome scores compared to the internal focused group. Three intact classes of first graders were recruited from a local elementary school in the Northwest. Within each class participants were quasi-randomly divided into two treatment groups (either external or internal attentional focus), with an equal representation of gender in each group. Twenty-five participants (M = 6.26 yrs, SD = 0.45) engaged in pretest, acquisition, retention and transfer trial blocks, each completing a total of 80 tosses over a three-week period. Performance outcomes were assessed using a circular target similarly used by Chiviacowsky et al. (2013) and Saemi, Porter, Wulf, Ghotbi-Varzaneh, & Bakhtiari vi (2013). Outcome scores during acquisition were analyzed using a 2 (Group: Int., Ext.) X 6 (Pretest, Acquisition Trial Blocks) ANOVA with repeated measures on the last factor. Outcome scores during acquisition trial block 5, retention, and transfer was analyzed using a 2 (Group: Int., Ext.) X 3 (Acquisition Block 5, Retention, Transfer) ANOVA with repeated measures on the last factor. No significant differences were found between groups during the pretest and acquisition (p = 0.56) or during acquisition trial block 5, retention and transfer (p = 0.71). Although non-significant, the internal focus group performed the task with slightly better performance outcome scores during acquisition, retention and transfer trial blocks. There was a significant difference within groups during acquisition trial block 5, retention and transfer trial blocks (p < 0.005). Both groups exhibited a decrease in scores during the transfer trial block. The results from this study did not support the hypothesis or previous research (Chiviacowsky et al., 2013; Perreault, 2013, Exp. 2; Saemi et al., 2013; Thorn, 2006; Wulf, Chiviacowsky, et al., 2010). However, these results demonstrated similar findings to Emanuel and colleagues (2008) and Perreault (2013, Exp. 1). Future research should continue to focus on this age population to gain a better understanding of how young children cognitively process and utilize instructions and feedback provided to them for improving motor skills.

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Kinesiology Commons