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Using the Game Sense approach to deliver Quality Teaching in Physical Education November 27, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: , ,

from Christina Curry

Christina Curry has previously posted one of our most popular contributions: Why public primary schools are desperate for specialised PE teachers. Here, she argues that through Game Sense, a different approach to teaching physical education, students can master intellectual as well as physical challenges.

In a climate of increasing accountability, expectations that teachers understand and demonstrate high quality teaching in Australia are reflected across a range of government initiatives. At a state level this includes the New South Wales (NSW) Quality Teaching Framework (QTF).

The NSW model of pedagogy embedded in the QTF focuses on the teaching practices that research studies indicates can make the most difference when it comes to improving student learning outcomes. The emphasis on providing intellectual quality, a quality learning environment and making the significance of learning explicit to students provides a valuable framework within which teachers can strive to deliver quality teaching. Many PDHPE teachers have struggled to deliver quality physical education teaching within this framework as the traditional model of teaching PE neglects the intellectual dimensions of games, sport and other movement (Light, 2002).

I suggest, as others have (Pearson, Webb, & McKeen, 2005), that a shift from traditional skill based, technique focused PE to a Game Sense pedagogy provides an ideal means through which PDHPE teachers can address the Quality Teaching Framework in the teaching of games and sport.

The Games Sense approach (see YouTube clip in the references below) is a student-centred, inquiry-based approach that allows students to develop their own skills and understandings while being actively involved in the game. It focuses on the game and not on the discrete skills or techniques that traditional approaches see as needing to be mastered before playing the game. All learning occurs within the authentic context of modified games or game-like activities to develop understanding, decision-making and skills that work within the context of a game. Skill development occurs at the same time as understanding, with the modified games reducing the technical demands on the students so that they can concentrate on the games as a whole. In this way Game Sense integrates physical, intellectual and social learning. Children can understand similarities between games and explore common principles.

Game Sense tends to use small sided, modified games that incorporate essential tactical structures but which are adapted to cater for different age, size, ability, inclination and motivation. This typically involves designing a series of modified, small-sided games that progressively move from simple to more complex games, culminating in the full game or modified version of it that the teacher expects the students to be able to play at the end of the unit. The games increase, not only in tactical complexity but also in the skills required to play them. The focus here is on students learning through engagement with the learning environment facilitated by the teacher who guides, shapes and enhances learning but does not determine it.

The inability to respond with suitably high quality teaching widens the gap between physical education and the ‘academic’ curriculum, reinforcing the perception of PE as a non-academic subject distant from the ‘real’ school curriculum. This then reduces physical education to justifying its place in the curriculum as a tool for fighting lifestyle diseases such as obesity, when research suggests its potential for realising valuable intellectual learning through movement when appropriate pedagogy is adopted (Light & Fawns, 2003).

As Australia moves towards a national curriculum there is a pressing need for high quality pedagogy that highlights the possibilities for learning through movement in physical education. PE teachers using the Game Sense approach will not only be able to meet the requirements of the NSW Quality Teaching Framework but will also be able to provide high quality learning experiences for students and make a start toward making physical education a truly valuable educational experience in NSW schools.

References    Light, R. (2002). Engaging the body in learning: Promoting cognition in games through TGfU ACHPER Healthy Lifestyle Journal, 49(269-87).   Light, R., & Fawns, R. (2003). Knowing the game: integrating speech and action in games teaching through TGfU. Quest, 55, 161-177.     Pearson, P., Webb, P., & McKeen, K. (2005). Linking Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and Quality Teaching (QT). Game Sense youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKzAbB2Lg6U

Christina Curry is a Lecturer in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She teaches and researches in K-12 PDHPE curriculum and pedagogy.


1. Louis Vaiotu - March 6, 2012

Great points for Game Sense based learning however I still believe that there is a place for Skills based approach in the high school curriculum. PDHPE pedagogy should involve both approaches, to what extent, that is for good teachers to acknowledge based on class circumstances. I do agree that Game Sense approaches should have more focus in a class of novice participants.

2. Sevda - March 12, 2012

Great article!

3. Elishwa - August 9, 2012

Awesome article about the game sense, children shouldn’t just get involved in the sport, they should think their strategies and movements during the game. Yes, i agree that primary school teachers should focus on new ways to exercise with students.

4. Stephanie - August 10, 2012

I believe that the game sense pedagogy approach to teaching sport mentioned in the article is a great, new and innovative way of engaging the students with the content being taught. By focusing the attention on the individual and not on the sub set of activity specific skills a more holistic approach is undertaken, in which the student and the curriculum are seen as a whole rather than two separate entities. This focus on student learning through engagement shifts thinking away from an assumption that once skills have been taught a person can play the game.

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