Contextual Interference (CI) is the term used to describe the different levels of intra and inter-task interference created by different practice schedules. In simple terms in describes levels of effort.
A low CI practice schedule would be ‘blocked practice’, where the same skill is executed over and over again. With blocked practice, there is no interference from having to re-organise movement coordination from a different movement pattern between subsequent attempts. This allows learners to execute and adapt one movement coordination pattern until they are able to perform it.
Medium CI includes ‘serial practice’ schedules (like on the water circuits) where skills that are likely to be performed by being linked together, are practised linked together where they can be anticipated in advance. Serial practice schedules allow the opportunity to pre-plan, repeat, compare and reflect on subsequent attempts whilst maintaining practice conditions that are adaptive and realistic.
High CI is ‘random practice’ where there is no opportunity to plan or repeat and compare responses. This allows the development of quick decision making and skilful execution of established movement patterns. The CI effect is a term used to describe the fact that optimal levels of complexity (interference) promote learning when it is assessed as performance in retention and transfer tests.