Physical Education Teaching Strategies & Styles

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we review some of these various teaching strategies and styles for physical education classes, including an explanation of the contrast between direct teaching and cooperative learning.

More Than One Way to Teach

Who doesn't remember those days of physical education classes? Sometimes they were fun and sometimes they could be embarrassing and not so fun, but they were often a memorable part of our childhood.

The traditional method of teaching physical education was pretty simple and straightforward. The coach stood at the front of the class and yelled so the students could hear, and often had to use a whistle to garner attention and quiet.

Direct Teaching

The advantages of this direct teaching method are that the coach can control the class and fit in a lot of activity into a short class period. This leaves plenty of opportunities for the students to hone their skills, especially new ones. On the other hand, because the class is centered around the teacher, some students may not receive proper feedback, and creativity is limited. Also, the lesser talented athletes often tend to get lost in the shuffle while the great athletes shine.

However, there are now a multitude of various teaching strategies that can be employed in addition to that method:

Cooperative Learning

The cooperative learning method is almost the opposite of the direct teaching method. The children work together to assist one another, while the coach is more of a monitor than a central figure. It has the benefit of teaching teamwork, communication, and social skills. The downside is that often the more popular or talented kids and extroverts tend to overpower the less popular or talented kids and introverts. There are many variations of cooperative (sometimes called collaborative) learning.

Convergent discovery - Here students are handed a problem with only one unique solution. In addition to physical skills, students must use their critical thinking and social skills. On the downside, students have to display some motivation on their own. For example, One Way is a challenge in which 48 colored squares are laid out on the ground in a 6x8 grid. Only the coach knows the correct predetermined path. Now the students must take turns walking across the path, and the coach says whether a square is safe or unsafe. Ultimately all students must cross, so they must both memorize and work together to beat the time limit.

Divergent discovery - This is pretty much the opposite of convergent discovery, as students are handed a problem with several solutions. For instance, students are shown a specific dance routine by the coach, but they can each be creative and add their own moves throughout the routine. This also allows the coach to assess each student, but once again the students must motivate themselves.

Jigsaw learning - When you hear the term jigsaw learning do you think of assembling the pieces of a puzzle? Here the students are divided into small groups, and each group teaches a specific task that is part of the whole skill. For instance, to teach a gymnastics vault one group would learn the approach, another the takeoff, another the spin in the air, and finally another the landing. Then the students would reform into other groups and teach what they learned to their peers. This allows the teacher to roam the class and monitor, but on the downside may be challenging for less talented pupils.

Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD) - Here the students are divided up into teams and must perform a task within a specified time limit. For example, the coach could have track and field day featuring a 50-yard sprint, a 4x50-yard relay (200 yards total), and the long jump. In advance, the coach sets up the equipment and the stations to save time. First, coach frames the task (explains rules and techniques) and then gives students ten minutes to plan strategy. The times are recorded while the coach plays the role of observer. The process is repeated for the other two events, and medals are even awarded. The review at the end of class is critical. The coach consoles students and teams that lost and emphasizes some positives. She shares examples of peer teaching and great teamwork. Finally, she quizzes the class on key elements of the lesson, and students teach them to one another.

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