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Designing Strategies for
Mental-and-Physical Skills

This page is about "strategies` to improve a mental-and-physical skill such as speaking & singing or improvising music or swing dancing, throwing a ball, driving a car, or or hitting a tennis backhand.*  Also, physical action is often required to actualize a strategy that seems to be mainly mental.

* For these skills, the goals of learning might be to improve:  pronunciation in a new language;  singing (pitch-matching, harmonizing;  improvising music, alone or with a group;  coordinated movement with a partner (or learning a new dance-pattern);  throwing a curve ball (in baseball) or (in baseball, basketball, or football) throwing a ball to a teammate;  driving a car safely;  hitting a tennis backhand more powerfully and consistently.

I.O.U. - This page will be revised later, maybe in late-2014.  Before then you can see many of the main ideas in unrevised form described below` (along with links for my pages about language pronunciation and musical improvisation, plus my personal interest in sports & coaching) and...

Quality Control for an Actualized Strategy and Cognitive-and-Metacognitive Strategies for Thinking and Learning + Performing + Enjoying and Optimal Performance.

improving language pronunciation, hitting a tennis backhand more powerfully and consistently, improvising music alone or in a group, passing a basketball to a teammate, driving a car safely


Here are some concepts-and-terms that will be used in this page:

In this website, and generally in life, what we call a Strategy is a Mental Strategy, and when this strategy-idea is converted into action it becomes a Physically-Actualized Mental Strategy, or simply an Actualized Strategy.

When a Physical Strategy is converted into action, it becomes an Actualized Physical Strategy, which is a Physical Skill.


Strategies for Physical-and-Mental Skills

This is a temporary page, to let you see what will be here later.  Why do I claim that we use a process of design for almost everything we do in life?  One reason is that the The Objectives of Design include products, activities, theories, and strategies:

An especially broad category is strategies, which include:  decisions, as in personal decisions that are “strategies for living” so you can plan actions to help you achieve personal objectives, or business decisions to achieve business objectives, or policy decisions to achieve governmental objectives, and so on;  and plans to improve a mental-and-physical skill that could include swing dancing, improvising music, throwing a ball, driving a car, improving language pronunciation or a tennis backhand, and much more.



Physical Strategies deserve their own subsection because we can use two basic types of strategies, mental and physical, plus overlapping mental-and-physical combinations.  In a Mental Strategy (discussed above) you make decisions about the actions you will do, and then you actualize the strategy by applying it to do these actions.  A Physical Strategy is similar, but there is a more direct connection between deciding and doing, with more emphasis on the quality of doing when you apply the strategy.  But in reality, instead of purely-physical strategies we typically use Mental-and-Physical Strategies, even when the most important mental factor is “not thinking too much” by metacognitively regulating your thinking.

For example, my first major instructional application of Design Process was A Problem-Solving Approach to Improving Pronunciation when learning a foreign language.  In this problem-solving approach you use Quality Checks (the essence of Design Process) by comparing your actual pronunciation with the goal-pronunciation you want, and doing whatever is required (by “experimenting” with the way you are speaking) to move your actual speaking-sounds in the direction of the goal-sounds you want.  In pursuing these goal-sounds, some conscious thinking may be useful, but your main focus is on the results, on the sound that you produce by applying the “physical strategies” that your body (your mouth, tongue, lips, vocal chords,...) is using when it makes physical adjustments in its attempts to achieve the sounds you want.  You are mainly focusing on the results of strategy-application, not the strategy itself.


What is it?

When I looked at this approach and asked “is the objective of improved pronunciation a product, activity, strategy, or theory?” my first response was “none of these, it's a physical skill.”  But I wanted to avoid making a new category if this isn't necessary, so I mentally converted "a physical skill" into “an application of a procedure (for using your mouth,... to make sounds)” which is “an application of a strategy (for using your mouth,...).”  And this categorization, with physical skill = procedure = procedure-strategy = strategy, fits nicely with the design-process use of Quality Checks to evaluate the quality a strategy and also the quality for an application of this strategy, as in speaking.    { Or if you prefer, speaking could be categorized as a physical skill, and then the possible objectives for design would be expanded to include physical skills, in addition to products, activities, strategies, and theories. }

Then I thought more generally about mental/physical skills that are mostly-physical.  A strategy for improving pronunciation is similar (in some ways but not others) to a strategy for improving a backhand stroke in tennis, where goals are defined (hit the ball over the net and into the court,...) and some broad features of the procedure-strategy are consciously decided (what kind of grip you will use, with one hand or two,...) but most details of the procedure-strategy are determined by your body, when it “does experiments” and you observe the results and make adjustments (consciously and unconsciously) in response, in an attempt to achieve your goals.

Or, in the context musical improvisation more options are available so there is more complexity, and we can think about mutual relationships between the mental strategies and physical strategies that are combined in this mental-and-physical skill.

The process of learning by observing-and-improving is similar (but with adjustments) for all mental/physical skills, such as learning how to dance, play music, throw a ball, or drive a car.  This generality of strategy-applications, for both mental and mental/physical strategies, is one more reason for my claim that we use design for almost everything we do in life.



a personal comment:  This overlapping of mental strategies & physical strategies is also one more reason for me to be excited about design, because for a long time I've been fascinated by a wide range of teaching and learning, by the variety of physical-and-mental skills that we use for learning-and-doing in athletics, arts, and academics.  This long-time personal fascination is described in my page about "things I like to do, watch, or study" in Sports and Sport-Science.