Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Bert Carron

Second Advisor

Dr. Graham Fishburne

Third Advisor

Dr. Matt Heath


The purpose of this dissertation was to describe athletes’ use of the functions of observational learning in various sport situations. A secondary purpose was to explore whether the Functions of Observational Learning Questionnaire (FOLQ; Cumming et al., 2005) could be used to examine naturalistic observational learning use with various groups of sport participants. To achieve these purposes, three studies were conducted. Study 1 examined the relationship between skill level, age, and use of the functions of observational learning in a sample of golfers. Study 2 explored the relationship between use of the functions of observational learning and self-efficacy beliefs in adult sport novices. Study 3 was a qualitative investigation of where, when, and why varsity athletes use observational learning, as well as what and who they observe in relation to their sport experiences. The results of Study 1 revealed that the interaction of age and skill level predicted golfers’ use of the skill function of observational learning; whereas only age was a negative predictor of their use of the strategy and performance functions. This suggested that for golfers age-related factors were more important in determining observational learning use than skill-related factors. Study 2 showed that there were sport type differences in the relationship between observational learning use and self-efficacy beliefs for adult sport novices. For novices in independent sports, use of the skill function of observational learning positively predicted self-efficacy to learn skills and strategies. For novices in interactive sports, use of the performance function positively predicted self-efficacy to regulate mental states. iii Study 3 provided insight into the structure of athletes' observational learning use in practice, competition, and other training-related settings. Athletes indicated that they used observational learning for functions beyond those examined in previous research. With respect to what and who, athletes reported on the specific content and characteristics of their observations, as well as the specific models observed. Overall, the results of these three studies offer practical considerations and directions for future research in observational learning. It appears that the FOLQ (Cumming et al., 2005) can be used to examine sport participants’ observational learning use and its relationship to proposed moderators and outcomes. As well, observer characteristics should be considered not only for their influence on observational learning for skills but for the other functions as well. Finally, researchers should consider examining observational learning use with a variety of approaches. Certainly interviewing techniques can provide information about how athletes employ observational learning in sport that is not available using quantitative approaches.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.