I mentioned earlier about the similarities in the process structures for many of the popular pedagogies or models that is usually discussed with much interest when given the chance. Light (2013) (as reported by Kinnerk et al’s (2018) (Kinnerk, Harvey, MacDonncha, & Lyons, 2018) wonderful literature review, focusing on sports team) proposed common features of Game Based Models (GBMs) of (1) the design and manipulation of practice games and activities, (2) the use of questioning, (3) the provision for opportunities for dialogue, and the (4) building a supportive sociomoral environment – literature reviews are a must for those who are information hungry but yet resource lacking!
I will suggest a further breakdown in common structure within (1) – the design and manipulation of practice games and activities. This is the part that gives the look of a class and inadvertently the biggest attractor or distractor of a teaching observation or analysis and at times creating much inter-theory defensive friction.
Here, I will offer the following stages or rather compartments (not in any hierarchical order, as teaching implementation steps are very dependent on learner abilities and teacher objectives and I really dread step by step proprietary strategies that seems to inundate us at times! I am just chunking!), (a) deciding on a movement to be introduced via an introductory game situation coupled with teacher’s prior knowledge of skill and learner, (b) creating a scenario that allows that movement exposure for discovery and learner to offer a solution, (c) confirming that learning occurs via various means, e.g. via a game like activity. I highlighted the following words; game, movement and exposure. These are words that are used very often in discussions on pedagogy that should be better understood in terms of its breadth of meaning, I feel. A lot of times, the use of these words as a single meaning descriptor, usually done so very unconsciously, results in misunderstanding of important concepts between speaker and listener with both thinking the other know exactly what they meant by the use of this words when it isn’t the case.
In the above literature review, summary in this area (the design and manipulation of practise games and activities) focused on four themes of (i) tactical skill development, (ii) technical skill development, (iii) physical activity and fitness development and (iv) planning and designing good games. The first three aspects are about developmental outcomes that are probably the main PE focus for a learner and the last is about the ability of the coach to create that game-based developmental environment, a big concern for teachers. I will assume that researchers looked at (iv) as the enabler that when successful allows the outcomes of (i) to (ii) to occur. Anecdotally, this enabler seems to take up a lot of attention when discussing pedagogy and teaching in PE or sports teams. In the papers reviewed, it seems that there is an agreement that it takes time and much coach expertise and experience to design the ideal game-based activity. This is a view that I hear a lot of from teachers in schools also, i.e. a new teacher is just not good enough for game-based teaching! This makes a lot of sense as expertise and experience cannot be discounted in its contribution to activity design. But are we adding to this difficulty as a result of defining game-based design understanding as something only experience can deliver and as a result scaring away fans of such an approach? Will a clearer, wider definition help in showing that activity design is really about good teacher training and preparation, firmed up by day to day reflective practices?
Could there possibly be a discrepancy in the way we all look at important teaching (I will use the word teaching and coaching here interchangeably at times) processes? I say this also because of recent discussions on social media and at work where important discussions come to standstill due to seemingly different ideas on definitions of words like technique based activity, drill, game, etc. What makes each word?
If the importance of broad descriptor understanding is true, is it worth spending more time figuring out the whole spectrum definition of such descriptors? Game is an example of a very broad meaning descriptor. I have suggested possible ways to interpret a game situation (when is it a game) and its connection to learning areas. I have also attempted to connect game, play and fun. The reason I did this some time back was my constant realization that these words were all used interchangeably at times that sometimes creates a dissonance in theory and praxis understanding that depends on who is explaining and who is listening. For example, in the above, I mentioned about much uneventful discussion taking place when it comes to descriptors like technique based activity, drill and game. It seems there is an unconscious acceptance that drill and game are opposite ends of a spectrum. Can a drill be game-like or does its military heritage make all drills one dimensional, repetitive and an enemy of contemporary educational pedagogy? Even if a drill is as described in the preceding sentence, does it have a place in the overall lesson or sports session?
In my earlier articles, I attempted to put in parameters for game-like conditions. Basically I am suggesting that a uni dimensional activity will most probably fall into not being game-like and that anything beyond this can be considered as game-like. Both conditions can be built into a drill and both definitions can involve technique based instructions. I believe all training scenarios must consider coach’s/teacher’s intervention strategy/teaching style (which will be overwhelmingly influenced by pedagogy) before any comprehensive evaluation should takes place. The exact definition of a drill or any other activity descriptor becomes less important and an exercise in semantics only if we focus on a good process definition.
Let’s look at movement. Movement has taken on a very important role in some quarters in the discussion on PE. It has been used collectively to mean what we trying to provide in PE, it has been used to described day to day objectives of a PE lesson and at times maybe even been alluded to in specific activity design objective. So, it seems that we do see it as an important part of PE and realise its wide meaning. Is it better for a listener, if we define exactly which aspect we referring to when engaging in a discourse? This clarity will probably also need to be extended to studies and reflections that involves the area of movement. So the plot thickens as we look at game and movement and how they exist together. Recently I notice a tension between resulting movements associated with the cognitive needs of educational based theories (indirect perception) as opposed to physiological (and its relation to the environment) based ones (direct perception). Does this mean that the movement perspectives form different theories are not similar or is it the same but looking at it from different angles? Who will put this positions together to make sense for the teachers? Harvey et al (2018) (Harvey, Pill, & Almond, 2018) (Len Almond, part of the legendary group of Loughborough founders of TGfU, passed away soon after that paper) discussed rather comprehensively on misconceptions that potentially went out of hand when comparing Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) to Constraint-Led Approach (CLA) in their paper. I like to see this paper as moving towards getting all on board with correct understanding of processes.
Exposure as a strategy is something that I am trying to unpack in my reflections quite a bit of recently. This relates very closely to the above theme looked into via the above mentioned literature review, (iv) planning and designing good games. We are all after the best possible kind of exposure for learners for the most effective learning.
Many a times, exposure in its most basic form has been suggested as a very popular and policy friendly strategy to get students onto the right path to life-long pursuit in movement. This very literal aspect of exposure is providing experiences with maximum participation objective as primary. At the other possible end of the spectrum, we might possibly look at sub movements and its philosophical and scientific effect via indirect and direct perception, e.g. as guiding Non-Linear Pedagogy (NLP) and Constraint-Led Approach (CLA). Over here, exposure consideration comes at the sub-movement level and is about exposing learners to deliberately facilitated energy arrays (visual most of time) that allows ecological dynamics to kick in with a solution. This level of exposure considers attunement and affordance in activity design. Attunement is about the way we notice energy array stimulus and how we give it attention in order to give an appropriate response, a perception-action view. Fajen (2008) (Fajen, Riley, & Turvey, 2008) describes the important role of attunement over time as a person builds up an ability in perceptual attunement, the ability to be discerning on what aspect of the task and environment a learner focus on for different objectives. In the same paper, he reported on the concept of affordance as “…opportunities for action provided by the environment for an animal…(Gibson, 1966, 1977, 1986)”. This is what deliberate design might possibly take into consideration in providing a learning environment. A lot of my reflection lately has been coming back to this scientific direct relationship between organism and task/environment when looking at movement learning, together with the different styles that look into the indirect perception (e.g. when learners apply a cognitive process to information before responding) processes that we are more used to as educators.
I see attunement and affordance here as representing also the bigger picture of what we as teachers has always been doing in whatever way we go about in teaching. It relates to the need to expose our students to a learning environment that facilitates a two way information flow (be it direct or indirect) between learner and teaching environment. Ideas like the need to focus on a specific aspect of exposure or the understanding of the breadth of game or movement definition can provide very important impetus to the reflective teacher wanting to explore further teaching styles, models and approaches. Models with narrower, specific definitions may cause much distraction for teachers if understanding of parameter broadness is limited, in their pursuit to discover and move forward through reflective attempts at looking at others and published work done. This breadth of understanding may be the key to a better teaching environment for any education ecosystem that is trying to progress.
I am not attempting nor trying to get into an academic discussion on the above. When looking at the different aspects of considerations in the use of good established ideas out there, we need to create our own affordance, pardon for borrowing this word, for good teaching. The challenge for us is that we are the creators for such conditions, we don’t have wonderful teachers with us every day helping us like our student have, and that can only happen with good understanding. There are many of us with very good instinct in this area, even though we might not be able to articulate its components. We must understand the role of all the different types of teachers/coaches we have in the system and leverage on each other.
References and readings for this article
Fajen, B., Riley, M., & Turvey, M. (2008). Information, affordance, and the control of action in sport. International Journal Sport Psychology, 40, 79 – 107.
Harvey, S., Pill, S., & Almond, L. (2018). Old wine in new bottles: a response to claims that teaching games for understanding was not developed as a theoretically based pedagogical framework. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 166 – 180. doi:10.1080/17408989.2017.1359526
Kinnerk, P., Harvey, S., MacDonncha, C., & Lyons, M. (2018). A Review of the Game-Based Approaches to Coaching Literature in Competitive Team Sport Settings. Quest. doi:10.1080/00336297.2018.1439390