Personal training: Skill modification

Skill modification is the use of extrinsic feedback to modify a client’s existing skill, increasing the occurrence of a correct performance and decreasing the occurrence of errors.

What is the difference between shaping and skill modification?

Shaping is used to develop new skills in clients, whereas skill modification is used to adjust skills already learned.

Using extrinsic feedback to increase the likelihood of a correct performance

To increase the chances of a correct performance taking place, the personal trainer needs to:

  • Give extrinsic feedback that positively reinforces the correct skill performance – the personal trainer uses verbal and non-verbal compliments, praise and encouragement when the client performs the skill correctly.
  • Give extrinsic feedback that acts as negative reinforcement – for example, the client avoids what they see as endless repetition of the teaching points from the personal trainer by performing the skill correctly.
  • Provide a model and give extrinsic feedback that reinforces the performance of the model – for example, the personal trainer praises the client after they perform the skill correctly.

Using extrinsic feedback to decrease the likelihood of an incorrect performance

To decrease the chances of an incorrect performance taking place, the personal trainer needs to:

  • Withdraw extrinsic feedback that acts as reinforcement – for example, when a personal trainer praises an incorrect performance believing it will motivate the client, this merely reinforces the incorrect behaviour. Removing this praise decreases the likelihood of it occurring.
  • Give extrinsic feedback that positively reinforces a client for not making a mistake – the personal trainer uses verbal and non-verbal compliments, praise and encouragement when the client performs a skill correctly that they almost always performed incorrectly before.

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