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Teaching approaches

This page provides an overview of teaching approaches that have been used in the sport studies units.

Co-operative learning in sport studies

Co-operative learning is based on the premise that developing an individual's self-knowledge and self-respect are prerequisites for functioning effectively within group situations. Considerable amount of teaching and learning in physical education occurs in small groups and team situations. Successful group experiences can contribute to the knowledge, self-esteem, and empowerment of individuals as they accomplish group goals.

A cooperative learning programme includes the following components:

  • Positive interdependence - students work in groups with assigned roles to achieve common goals;
  • Individual accountability - students are equally responsible for the group's success and can therefore be held accountable;
  • Group processing - students reflect on how well their group functioned in working towards the group's learning goals;
  • Social skills are incorporated in ways that students can identify their use and purpose.

Cooperative learning involves a deliberate intention of transforming individuals into committed and productive members of a cohesive team. During this process individuals are likely to progress through a series of stages.

These can be summarised as

  • forming - students come together and become acquainted:
  • storming - students find areas of disagreement and conflict;
  • norming - students define areas of agreement and cooperation; and
  • performing - students work collegially toward group goals.

Cooperative learning provides students opportunities to:

  • be committed to a group;
  • learn and apply interpersonal skills;
  • take responsibility for both their learning and that of others.

Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1987). Learning together and alone: Co-operative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Joyce, B., & Weil, M. (1986). Models of teaching (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies units Cooperative sport and Perceptive cricket.

Critical thinking in sport studies

In sport studies critical thinking can be used to critically appraise the nature, meaning, and importance of sport in our society. This appraisal involves examination of the values, cultures, attitudes, and beliefs, which underpin our notions of sport and affect students' enjoyment of, and participation in, school physical education programmes.

Critical thinking model

Students answer the following questions in relation to a particular sporting situation.

  • How would you describe the particular sporting situation? What are the hidden messages of this situation?
  • What are the issues missing from this situation?
  • What are your beliefs about the particular sporting situation?
  • Why do you believe these things?
  • Whose interests are being served in this situation - who is being advantaged?
  • Whose interests are not being served in this situation - who is being disadvantaged?
  • What needs to change to make this situation more inclusive? How can you contribute to this change?

Critical thinking provides opportunities for teachers and students to:

  • reflect on and critically examine different educational ideas and practices related to sport and games;
  • develop skills of critical thinking to better understand the social and cultural significance that sport has for individuals and for society;
  • reflect on why we play these sports;
  • reflect on the implications of what is taught and the way it is taught.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies unit Sport and competition.

An experiential learning approach to sport studies

An experiential learning approach can enhance students' personal growth through effective participation, group processes, and openness to new experiences. It includes the solving of movement and activity problems both individually and within groups and teams.

Rather than the teacher providing information, students are encouraged to generate information as they progress through a planned sequence. The sequence involves carrying out actions, observing and reflecting on the effects of those actions, applying this understanding to new circumstances, and ultimately generalising their findings and transferring them to other aspects of their lives. The role of the teacher is to provide contexts that enable activities to reflect real-life situations.

A crucial element of the process is de-briefing or processing the experience. This process provides opportunities for both self-reflection and peer feedback.

Adventure based learning (ABL) is a form of experiential learning frequently used in New Zealand schools. ABL is promoted by Project Adventure New Zealand.

Important elements of ABL around which sport studies games and activities can be structured are:

  • trust-building,
  • goal-setting,
  • challenge/stress,
  • peak experiences,
  • humour/fun, and
  • problem-solving.

Experiential learning provides students with opportunities to:

  • participate in sequenced games and activities aimed at improving individual self-concept and self-efficacy;
  • develop decision-making and problem solving ability in physical activities;
  • develop interpersonal and co-operative skills through trust and competent behaviour.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies units Learning team roles through padder tennis and Touch.

Hellison's Model - Developing personal and social responsibility in physical education

Explicit teaching is needed to develop the attitudes and values to behave socially responsible. By using Hellison's developmental levels of personal and social responsibility teachers can help students to make responsible decisions about their behaviour and involvement in physical education and in their lives beyond the school.

The levels of personal and social responsibility are:

  • Level 0: Irresponsibility – students are unmotivated, and their behaviour might include interrupting, verbal abuse, intimidation, and 'putting down' other students.
  • Level 1: Self-control – students may not participate fully, but control their behaviour sufficiently so as not to disrupt the rights of other students to learn and participate.
  • Level 2: Involvement – students are actively involved in the subject matter, and are willing to try new activities.
  • Level 3: Self-responsibility – students are able to work without supervision and increasingly take responsibility for their own actions.
  • Level 4: Caring – students extend their sense of responsibility by cooperating, giving support, showing concern, and helping others.

Strategies that may encourage awareness of personal and social responsibility includes:

  • Teacher talk – teacher describes student's behaviour with reference to the levels;
  • Modelling – teacher models responsible attitudes, values, and beliefs;
  • Reinforcement – teacher encourages positive attitudes or behaviour, and enhances student awareness of personal and social responsibility;
  • Reflection – students have opportunities to consider their behaviour in relation to the levels;
  • Student-sharing – students share their opinions and experiences about their behaviour in relation to the levels;
  • Specific strategies – teacher uses specific strategies to increase student interaction at a particular level (for example, peer-teaching at level 4).

The personal and social responsibility model provides students with opportunities to:

  • reflect on their attitudes, values, and behaviour;
  • appraise the effect their attitudes, values, and behaviour have on others;
  • aspire to increasing levels of personal and social responsibility.

Hellison, D. (1995). Teaching responsibility through physical activity. Champagne Il: Human Kinetics.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies unit Heart running.

Mosston's spectrum of teaching styles

This spectrum describes ten distinctive teaching styles based on the degree that the teacher and/or students assume responsibility for what occurs in the lesson.

  1. Command: All decisions are controlled by the teacher.
  2. Practice: Students execute teacher-prescribed movement tasks on their own.
  3. Reciprocal: Partner helps in some teaching/coaching prescribed by the teacher.
  4. Self-check: Teacher plans and students monitor their own performance against criteria.
  5. Inclusion: Planned by teacher, students monitor personal progress.
  6. Guided discovery: Teacher provides clues to solving movement problems.
  7. Problem-solving: Students find answers to problems set by the teacher.
  8. Individual: Teacher sets content, student plans programme.
  9. Learner-initiated: Student plans programme, submits evaluation to teacher.
  10. Self-teaching: Student is teacher and learner, takes responsibility for own learning.

The first five teaching styles focus predominantly on reproducing what is known. The last five styles focus on discovery learning. All styles, with the exception of the first two, are useful in developing personal and social learning outcomes through increasing student ownership of the learning process.

The last five styles of Mosston's teaching spectrum provides opportunities for students to:

  • take ownership and responsibility for their learning;
  • plan and implement the programme;
  • receive personal and specialised skill and behavioural learning programmes as the teacher becomes free from full class direct instruction.

Mosston, M., & Ashworth, S. (1994). Teaching physical education (4th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies units Changing fashions in sport and leisure, Wheeling through the years, Techy tennis, Playing the game safely, and My athletic identity.

Sport education

The sport education model has several distinctive characteristics:

  • Seasons A season involves a series of consecutive lessons (for example, 14 to 20), and involves pre-season activities, practice and competition.
  • Team affiliation Students become members of teams for the duration of the season and assume roles of coach, manager, and so on, as well as being players.
  • Formal competition The competition involves pre-season preparation, in-season competition, and a culminating event or festival that provides an appropriate climax to the end of the competitive season.
  • Keeping records Records may include outcomes of matches and player performance.
  • Festivity The festivity of sport can be encouraged through a sports notice board, team photos, uniforms, and honouring the rituals and traditions of the particular sport.

The sport education model provides students opportunities to:

  • participate in a realistic context,
  • explore ideas in, through, and about sport,
  • develop knowledge and skills, team identity, and social interaction skills,
  • take ownership and responsibility for their learning,
  • plan and implement the programme,
  • be challenged through peer support, peer encouragement, and trust,
  • value their contribution to the team, and
  • receive personal and specialised skill and behavioural learning programme due to the teacher being free from full class direct instruction.

Siedentop, D. (1994). Sport education: Quality physical education through positive sport experiences. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies units Rugby in the media, Netball invasion, Learning team roles through padder tennis, and Cooperative sport.

Teaching games for understanding

The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) model fosters tactical awareness and skill instruction.

TGfU is most effective when student-centred and game-centred. It asserts that understanding tactics and strategies of a sport should precede the development and execution of the required skills.

Suggested lesson sequence for teaching games for understanding

  • Game form: Small numbers of players, modified equipment, rules and playing area.
  • Game appreciation: The application and understanding of certain rules of the game (simplified and modified), so that students develop tactics appropriate for their skill levels.
  • Tactical awareness: Tactics are developed through the gradual introduction of movement principles (for example, space and time), and increasingly complex scenarios (for example, creating and denying space, recognising their opponents' and team-mates' strengths and weaknesses).
  • Decision-making: The teacher facilitates the decision-making process through questioning, for example "what can you do?", "who could you pass to?" and "how can you do it?"
  • Skill execution: Correct execution of the required skill becomes important when the student recognises a need for it. When this happens the skill and technical instruction is provided.
  • Performance: Performance includes both technical efficiency and appropriateness of the movement.
  • Game: Completion of the preliminary steps culminates in the student's ability to play the game.

Teaching games for understanding provides students opportunities to:

  • take responsibility for their learning,
  • transfer understanding about games to other games, and
  • apply cognitive development to movement experiences.

Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1986). Issues that arise when preparing to teach for understanding. In R. Thorpe, D. Bunker, & L. Almond (Eds.). Rethinking games teaching. Loughborough: University of Technology.

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies unit Netball invasion.

Social inquiry model in sport studies

The social inquiry model can help students to think systematically about issues in sport by encouraging recognition of their own values and attitudes about the issue, and the analysis of alternative positions.

The Social inquiry model has six stages.

  1. Orientation to the case: Students are introduced to the particular issue.
  2. Identifying the issues: Teacher encourages debate by reviewing facts. In this stage, students are encouraged to characterise the values involved, and to identify conflicts between values.
  3. Taking a position: Students take a position on the issue and articulate their reasons for taking that position.
  4. Exploring the stance underlying the position taken: Teacher provides opportunities to challenge and probe students' positions by asking students to, for example: a) identify the point at which a value is violated or compromised; b) clarify the conflict between values, through using analogies; and c) provide desirable or undesirable consequences of a position.
  5. Refining and qualifying the positions: Students' clarify their reasoning in a value position. The teacher can prompt students to re-state or revisit their positions.
  6. Testing assumptions about facts, definitions, and consequences: The value positions are tested by identifying and examining the factual assumptions behind them. The teacher can encourage students to consider whether their value position would still hold up under extreme conditions.

The social inquiry model provides opportunities for students to:

  • communicate effectively and successfully negotiate their differences,
  • explore a range of view points as well as their own, and
  • reflect on their own bias and the effect this bias may have on others.

Joyce, B., & Weil, M. (1986). Models of teaching (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

An example of a social enquiry model is available in either Word or PDF format below. This example considers the idea that the behaviour of sporting role models, as reported in the media, can influence the attitudes and behaviours of other sports people.

Word icon. Example of social enquiry model (Word, 31 KB)

PDF icon. Example of social enquiry model (PDF, 13 KB)

This approach is incorporated in the sport studies units Rugby in the media and Heart running.


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