Antionette Gentile | Teachers College Columbia University

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Antionette Gentile

Professor Emeritus, Movement Sciences

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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Published Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013


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