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Employing Effective Teaching Tactics

This is an excerpt from The Essentials of Teaching Physical Education by Stephen Mitchell, and Jennifer L. Walton-Fisette.

Although effective class management (chapter 12) is essential, and you should cultivate a range of teaching styles, you need more than just varied teaching styles to ensure that learning takes place. Effective teaching for learning in physical education requires you to use a particular set of skills and teaching behaviors after you have your learning environment organized. The following sections address some of these skills.


Demonstrating Skills and Tasks

The expression "A picture is worth a thousand words" clearly applies to physical performance. A good demonstration shows your students what is required of them and how it is required. Several questions are worth exploring with regard to your ability to provide high-quality demonstrations.


Who demonstrates?

Although you might be able to demonstrate all, or at least most, of the skills and movements you want your students to learn, having students demonstrate is often preferable because the rest of a class sees one of their peers, rather than an adult model, performing a task. So which student or students should you ask to demonstrate? Spreading this opportunity around is ideal, but remember that the purpose of a demonstration is to show what you want in terms of performance. Bear in mind that most of the time you will get what you show because students will replicate the demonstration, so you want your students to see a good model. Asking for volunteers for demonstrations can be problematic, particularly with enthusiastic elementary students who want to please you, because they might not be able to perform as needed. So ask volunteers to demonstrate only those tasks that you know all students can perform, and try not to show favoritism when choosing volunteers.


A better approach is to ask students to demonstrate after you have observed a brief period of student activity. A preservice teacher coined the phrase "demo shopping" to mean her process of observing students performing to facilitate her selection of students to do a demonstration. After demo shopping, you then need to ask the selected students whether they are comfortable demonstrating and give them an opportunity to practice or rehearse beforehand. This approach prevents any potential discomfort. Demo shopping does not mean that you always ask the same high-ability students to demonstrate. Some tasks do not require a high level of skill, so average or lower-skilled students could do those demonstrations.


Where does demonstration occur?

The positioning of both performers and observing students is important in producing a quality demonstration. For example, if you are using a team to demonstrate a shooting practice in soccer or basketball, bringing the rest of the class over to that team’s court to watch the demonstration makes sense. The demonstrating team is better able to replicate the task because the environment is familiar. As with gathering formations (see chapter 12), observers during a demonstration should all be in a location where they can see the performance. Some thought is sometimes needed to achieve this. For example, where should observers sit to watch a demonstration of an overhead clear, drop shot, or service in badminton? The answer depends on which hand the performer is hitting with because observers need to view the performance from the forehand side to get the best view of appropriate technique. If the performer is right-handed, then observers should be seated at the right-hand side of the court. You need to think of details like this before giving your transition statement to gather students for the demonstration.


What is demonstrated?

You will no doubt need to demonstrate many aspects of performance, including game play if rules need to be demonstrated, gymnastics and dance movements, fitness activities, and perhaps even officiating performance. But most of your demonstrations will involve showing aspects of technique to help students become skillful performers within whatever context those techniques are needed. With that in mind, you should take care to demonstrate skills within their context when possible. For example, when demonstrating a forearm pass in volleyball, you want to show the technique performed from the back of the volleyball court to a target at the front of the court so that your students see the forearm pass performed as it would be in a game setting. Continuing with this example, make sure you demonstrate the task in its entirety, including the number of repetitions for each student and the rotation of positions within the practice.


How is demonstration done?

The point here is simply that you should demonstrate tasks at the intensity with which you want them to be performed. Remember, demonstrate what you want because you will get what you demonstrate! If speed of performance is important to a task, then make sure that the task is shown at the speed at which you want it performed. This point is particularly important in invasion game tasks in which the ability of offensive players to elude defensive players is critical.


Developing and Asking Good Questions

As you increasingly use indirect teaching styles, you will inevitably adopt a more question-driven approach to your instruction. Therefore, you need to develop and practice the teaching skill of asking good questions. Teaching through asking questions is most likely a strategy you will adopt when using one of the three discovery styles outlined earlier in this chapter. If you are looking for specific answers to your questions, you will be teaching using either guided discovery or convergent discovery. If you can accept a range of answers, you will be using a divergent discovery style.


Questions can vary in focus and complexity. An effective strategy to formulate questions is simply to decide on the answer or answers that might be acceptable. Of course, because you will be asking questions of children, you cannot really predict the answers you will get, so you might have to probe with additional questions. One framework for helping you develop good questions is Bloom’s taxonomy, developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom as a way to identify learning objectives in the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains. This framework was revised in 2001. Figure 13.4 shows the revision to the taxonomy in the cognitive domain (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001). Using this revised taxonomy can help you think of appropriate questions of varying complexity, starting with the simplest questions concerning what students remember and progressing to questions concerning understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Using the taxonomy presented in figure 13.4, you can develop questions of increasing complexity regarding the following:

  • What to do?
  • Why do it?
  • Why choice A rather than choice B?
  • Where to do it?
  • When to do it?
  • How to do it?
  • What are the safety and risk issues?
  • How to change it to make it better?


Figure 13.4 Revised Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain.
Revised Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain.


Setting Goals for Student Performance

Students of all ages respond well to goals against which they can measure their performance, so you should always set goals. A lot has been written about goal setting, from both a theoretical and practical perspective, particularly as it relates to motivation. Goals are motivational, but they must be the right sort of goals. Drawing from best practice in management, the recommendation is to use SMART goals, as outlined in the "SMART Goals" sidebar (Haughey, 2014).


Goals should be specific enough to provide a significant focus yet have enough "stretch" that you can adapt the goal as necessary for performers of varying ability. For example, the number of badminton serves hit into a target area can be varied according to student ability, but the goal is specific enough to be clear for all students. Specific goals are also more easily measured, which makes the goal more meaningful and therefore more motivational than a goal that is not measured. To get buy-in from your students, you and the students must agree on the goals. For this to happen, the goals must be attainable and realistic. Realism is important because students, particularly at the secondary level where they are starting to understand the limits of their ability, will know whether accomplishing a goal is out of their reach (see chapter 3 on the development of children’s motivation). Lastly, goals should be time-bound to create a level of urgency and make students strive to accomplish the goal in a timely manner. This feature enables you to hold your students accountable for their practice by asking them how they are doing relative to the goal by the end of the specified period.

SMART Goals

  • SÂ Â Â Â Â Specific, significant, stretching!
  • MÂ Â Â Â Â Measurable, meaningful, motivational!
  • AÂ Â Â Â Â Agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action oriented!
  • RÂ Â Â Â Â Realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results oriented!
  • TÂ Â Â Â Â Time based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable!


Developing and Using Teaching Cues

So you have managed the learning environment, demonstrated a learning activity, and transitioned your students into that activity. Well done! Your students are moving and engaged in meaningful, goal-driven activity. At this point, you may want to pat yourself on the back and take a rest, but your work is far from over. Your students still need your input in the form of the teaching cues you provide. Teaching cues are the short statements you use to provide your students with the "notion of the motion" by specifying for them the most relevant content (Fronske, 2014). For example, you can use the cue "flat platform" to remind learners to keep the flat of their forearms to the ball as a platform for a forearm pass. Or you can use the cue "toe down" to stress the importance of extending the foot when shooting a soccer ball so that they contact the ball with the laces of the shoe. Regardless of the teaching cues you use, you should use no more than three or four at any one time, so you need to select the most important aspects of performance as the focus. Too many cues will lead to information overload for your students and inability to process the most relevant information. Therefore, select teaching cues that are critical and use those cues as part of your demonstration and as prompts to your students during practice.


Providing Feedback

Besides providing teaching cues to prompt student performance, you also need to give feedback to guide their practice and let them know what they are doing well or how they can correct their errors. Where possible, your feedback should be positive and specific rather than general. Feedback statements such as "Matt, nice follow-through to your target" or "OK, but keep the wrist firm" provide more information than simply "Nice work" or "Good try." Note use of the student’s name before the feedback statement to grab the student’s attention.


You should also try to give feedback both locally and globally. Local feedback is the one-on-one interactions you have with students to help them improve. But you might find yourself saying the same thing repeatedly if common errors are occurring. In this case feedback should be more global. Stop the class, tell them that you are seeing some common errors, and then provide appropriate feedback and teaching cues to correct those errors.


You may have trouble knowing what to give feedback about during activity. Herein lies the relationship between the teaching cues you use and the feedback you give. If you’re not sure what feedback to give, just go back to your teaching cues for your feedback statements. For example, if you have used teaching cues related to staying on beat in a dance lesson, then give feedback about your students’ ability to stay on beat. Or if you have used teaching cues related to passing a soccer ball ("Face your target, point the toe outward, keep the ankle flexed, strike the center of the ball, follow through to your target"), then these cues should also be the focus of your feedback. This idea is simple really, but it is important because of the role that feedback plays in student learning and motivation.


Key Points

  • A picture is worth a thousand words, so demonstrate what you want your students to do. But demonstrate well because you are likely to get what you demonstrate.
  • Develop and ask good questions to stimulate student thinking. They are more likely to retain knowledge this way. Use Bloom’s taxonomy to help you develop questions of varying complexity.
  • Provide both teaching cues and feedback to all students to guide their performance and learning.

Cultivate Effective Teaching Skills

Social Justice Issues to Address

Clearly, some social justice issues are related to instruction, especially because you will be interacting with students a lot when demonstrating, asking questions, and giving feedback. A few social justice issues are worth considering relative to the organization of this chapter. First, your students learn best in different ways, so you need to use a range of teaching styles from direct to indirect to provide all your students with the best opportunities for learning. Second, concerning demonstrations, you should try to find opportunities for students other than the most physically talented ones to demonstrate performance for the class. This approach creates a climate of mutual respect and caring. Third, ensure that you provide teaching cues and feedback to all students in your classes because all deserve and can benefit from your attention.

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The Essentials of Teaching Physical Education With Web Resource

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