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What is the best way for children to learn to swim?

de Tongelreep

What is the best way for children to learn to swim?

InnoSportLab de Tongelreep, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Nationale Raad Zwemveiligheid (NRZ) InnoSportLab de Tongelreep, the Vrije University of Amsterdam and the National Swimming Safety Council (NRZ) have entered into a partnership on a PhD project focused on swimming lessons. The aim of the project is to gain insight into how young children can learn to swim the best. The question here is not only how well children learn to swim, but also whether they will enjoy swimming. The idea is that children who enjoy going to swimming lessons, continue to swim more often afterwards. After all, swimming lessons do not have to be at odds with having fun. The research is conducted by Carola Minkels, who graduated in Human Movement Sciences.

In the first phase of her research project, Carola maps out the current methods that are used during swimming lessons as well as possible. For this she observes swimming lessons at various swimming pools/swimming clubs/swimming schools throughout the Netherlands. The research is based on the so-called self-determination theory of Ryan and Deci (2000). In this theory, a distinction is made between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. With intrinsic motivation, an activity is performed based on one's own motives, such as interest and pleasure. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside. For example, through rewards or expectations of others. The idea is that if children develop intrinsic motivation for the swimming lesson, they experience more fun during the swimming lesson and continue to swim after the swimming lessons.

In the second phase of the project, an intervention study will be conducted in which regular swimming lessons methods are compared with a new method that tries to increase the intrinsic motivation of children for swimming lessons. This new method aims to increase the children's sense of autonomy, competence and connectedness during swimming lessons. The question is whether this leads to a better learning performance and more fun in swimming than the regular teaching methods.

In the final phase of the PhD research, the effectiveness of a number of learning methods in teaching the swimming movement is compared. Think of intervention studies focusing on internal versus external focus of attention, implicit versus explicit learning and practice with little or a lot of variation during practice. The aim of this part of the project is to find out which methods can best be used in the swimming lessons of starting swimmers.

Through the PhD project, InnoSportLab de Tongelreep wants to optimize the current swimming lesson methods and to enthuse children to continue swimming for a lifetime.


Picture by: Epp Loviisa Pärtel


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