Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dennis Landin


The purpose of this study was to investigate the manner in which content development strategies function in physical education instruction. The relative effects of three content development conditions on mediational variables and achievement of students varying in entry ability were compared. College students enrolled in four sections of tennis were assigned to one of three content development conditions: part training, simplification, and criterion. Four instructors taught three small groups of students, one using each content development strategy. Instructors followed detailed lesson plans standardized according to time allowed for serving practice, task presentation, provision of feedback, and task elements emphasized during teacher-student interactions. All groups received instruction and practiced the serve for five days. Subjects assigned to the criterion condition practiced the criterion task, serving from behind the baseline, while the part training and simplification groups experienced a series of tasks of increasing difficulty. The part training task series was a backward chaining approach which began with the final segment of the serving motion, and sequentially adding adjacent movement segments. Subjects assigned to simplification practiced the whole serving motion, but began practicing close to the net and systematically moved toward the baseline, a manipulation of goal difficulty. Dependent measures were percent of successful and appropriate practice trials, ratings of self-efficacy, motivation, and success collected via questionnaire, skill test scares, performance during match play, and teachers' and students' perceptions of the effectiveness of conditions. The results indicated that both part training and simplification enhanced the quality of practice, self-efficacy, and motivation, mediational variables hypothesized as mechanisms underlying the benefits of progressions. Students assigned to the simplification condition also had higher post-test scores and performed better during match play. These quantitative data combined with students' and teachers' perceptions support the notion that part training and simplification, two conceptually different progressive strategies, operate through differing mechanisms and affect skill acquisition in ways related to the types of cognitions and learning strategies which they promote.