Friday, September 18, 2015

Taekwondo Instruction & Learning Theory

By Eileen Lindner, 2nd dan

Learning theories are many and varied, as are the ways that individuals learn best. There are several paradigms which encompass most of the theories.  Behaviorism, constructivism, cognitivism, and humanism are the main paradigms of learning theory.  Using learning theories to facilitate the learning of a physical curriculum, like taekwondo, may best be done using aspects from different paradigms.  There is not one exclusive best paradigm to enhance martial arts training and instruction; rather it is best done incorporating many facets of differing paradigms and theories.

Taekwondo instruction is physical, and differs in many ways from the classroom model that learning theories most often refer to in evaluation.  The instruction in Colorado Taekwondo Institute martial arts school follows a basic pattern for every class.  Following this standardized curriculum allows aspects of differing theories to relate easily.

Since every learner could have a differing learning style, the instructor must be able to adapt a theory to fit an individual – many individuals at once – during instruction. The seven learning styles are: “visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary.”  Learning styles can change within an individual, often dependent on the curriculum, or the student’s age.

Taekwondo instruction requires not only the physical knowledge; but the ability to adapt a teaching method to particular students.  Knowledge of these learning theories and their students will help the instructor improve both instruction and their students’ performance.

Martial arts red belts crossing roundhouse kicksThe behaviorism theory, used with knowledge of constructivism, only enhances learning for the student.  The specific stimulus-response based instruction used with accommodation, assimilation, and equilibrium in the student, is a perfect example:  The basic mid-section punch is taught the same way, every class, until the student seems to understand it and perform it the same way over a period of time.  At that point, the details of chamber hand, focus, two knuckles for impact, etc. are reinforced.  Then the instructor can draw the connection of that same punch used in motion, during poomse, to improve both the basic punch and the technique in poomse.  The stimulus-response has created a connection for the student, and then the accommodation and equilibrium are put into play for the student to evolve and improve.

Combining stimulus-response with the other theories of cognitivism and humanism sounds disconnected; but they can be put to work together to enhance learning and performance.  The experienced Colorado Taekwondo Institute instructor can do this intuitively; and all instructors can benefit from studying these theories. The instructor presents all necessary information to follow Component Display Theory; is aware of the basic needs of their student as in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; and maintains consistent stimulus-response in the instruction situation, as in behaviorism.

The instructor, to use these theories properly, should also be capable of identifying the learning style that their student best responds to.  Many younger children need a visual, aural, and physical presentation of instruction.  Often, older students vary between logical and physical with visual aspects.  Teaching different students at once means the instructor has to incorporate this knowledge during class, adapting methods as students appear to follow, or be confused by a given instruction.  Most experienced instructors say what they are doing, then show what they are doing, then say it again, before asking the student to perform the technique – allowing at least three learning styles to be addressed at once.  The martial arts instructor also can face a certain student, or position themselves to best see the process and progress of their students.

Being familiar with different learning theories and learning styles allows the taekwondo instructor to best reach and instruct each student in an individual manner – even in a large class setting.  The more knowledge the martial arts school instructor has of their students, the better the instruction.
Using aspects of all the listed learning theories happens regularly in Colorado Taekwondo Institute classes, as the instructors put the students first and adapt to best teach each person.  Contact us at to see how our instruction can best help you and your child achieve your goals!


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Pavlov’s Dogs: How Ivan Pavlov Discovered Classical Conditioning;, retrieved June 1, 2015.

Culture and Cognitive Development from a Piagetian Perspective; Dasen, Pierre R., retrieved June 1, 2015.

Jean Piaget;, retrieved June 1, 2015.
Component Display Theory;, retrieved June 2, 2015.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs;, retrieved June 2, 2015.

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