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Antoinette Gentile

TC Professor Emeritus Antoinette Gentile, a leader in movement sciences and neuromotor research, taught for 44 years in TC's Department of Biobehavioral Sciences in the Movement Science and Education/Kinesiology Programs. She pioneered in applying theories of brain function in movement disorders to patient treatment. Previously, treatment had been shaped largely by defining the extent of damage to patients’ brains. Gentile, whose training encompassed neuro-anatomy, movement, motor learning and developmental research, focused instead on the impact of environment on brain function and the potential for behavioral change. She was an early champion of the notion of “neuroplasticity”—the concept that the brain can reorganize following trauma, shifting functions to new regions. In a 1972 paper titled “A Working Model of Skill Acquisition with Application to Teaching,” Gentile argued that neuromotor skills are acquired in distinct stages, with a performer’s current stage having implications for teaching or treatment. In a “Taxonomy of Tasks”—now ubiquitous in texts in the field—she grouped tasks according to the structure of the environment in which they are performed. Gentile and a TC colleague, Joe Higgins (now retired), also established the first graduate program in motor learning, now a major sub-discipline of physical education/kinesiology. To effectively teach motor skills, they believed, one needed to know how the learner learns. Many graduates became leaders in kinesiology, physical education and rehabilitation (especially physical therapy and occupational therapy).

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Premiered on 7/14/2013

About the Series

In "Mini Moments with Big Thinkers," leading figures in Teachers College's history discuss groundbreaking ideas, research and initiatives born at the College during the past half-century. The Mini Moments are drawn from the College’s Oral History Project, a collection of more than 90 videotaped interviews conducted by Melanie Shorin and Jessica Wiederhorn, the principals of The Narrative Trust, a private firm that conducts and captures the oral histories of institutions, communities and individuals. Produced in conjunction with TC’s Department of Development and External Affairs, the Mini-Moments are airing throughout 2013.

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