Models of skill acquisition, such as Ackerman's (1988) theory of skill acquisition, largely ignore the experiences and dynamic internal processes of a person while learning a skill (e.g., how they feel, what strategies they are using, the role of the external environment). Riding and Powell (1993) suggested that the information-processing model (a common conceptualisation of learning and thinking) is an inadequate model to explain the complexities of human brain functions. These models are largely holistic, and do not provide detail about the qualitative aspects of a person's learning experience. This paper attempts to highlight the importance of a dynamic description of skill acquisition and to 'unpack' the skill acquisition stages, with a focus given to process rather than performance or outcome. Learning more about what is going on 'inside people's heads' whilst learning a skill, and what feelings or affective states are present, can inform both skill acquisition theory and various practical issues, such as why some training programs fail and some succeed. The role of emotions, motivation, environment, and other factors; the concepts of skill and ability; and various theories of skill acquisition are discussed. This highlights missing elements in the typical cognitive experimental focus. The concept of process itself is explored, with a focus on learning in general. Process-oriented factors such as motivation, memory, interruptions, emotion, and metacognition are investigated in relation to skilled performance. Areas for future research and some practical implications for training are outlined.
Vol. 37, no. 2 (July 2002), pp. 104-117