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Situating Social and Emotional Learning Within a Tactical Games Approach

This is an excerpt from Teaching Sport Concepts and Skills 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Stephen A. Mitchell,Judith L. Oslin & Linda L. Griffin.

The original intent of the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) model was to have an inclusive model in which there would be an opportunity for all students (learners) to play games with some success through modifications. The model depicts a journey of a learner; however, as physical educators, we recognize that sports are dynamic, living, social experiences. In fact, many people play sport for the socialization that it offers. The original model places the learner in the center of six steps of the model (Bunker and Thorpe 1986):

  1. Game or game form. Students are introduced to a game or game form that is developmentally appropriate for their age and experience.
  2. Game appreciation. Students understand the rules of the game since rules give the game its shape.
  3. Tactical awareness. Students recognize and understand the principles of play (e.g., creating space, denying space, etc.) through problem solving in game situations.
  4. Decision making. Students learn to make good game decisions based on considering what to do (i.e., tactical awareness) and how to do it (i.e., select appropriate skills and movements).
  5. Skill execution. Students learn skills and movements within the context of the game and themselves as the learners.
  6. Performance. Students are assessed based on an appropriate response as well as technical efficiency.

A central tenet of the original TGfU model (Bunker and Thorpe 1986) is game appreciation. Stolz and Pill (2014) indicated that TGfU’s emphasis on appreciating the game may be the model’s most significant proposition for student engagement. Through game appreciation, students see the value for how rules, skills, and tactics influence each other in game play. Rules can entail space (i.e., boundaries), time constraints, and rules for scoring, which all give the game shape and influence the tactics being foregrounded. For example, if you play badminton on a long and narrow court, there is more space at the front and back of the court than at the sides of the court. The long and narrow court would encourage players to hit the shuttlecock deep to create space at the front of the court and set up for a potential drop shot at the front of the court. Another net and wall example would be to raise the nets in pickleball or tennis, which slows down the game and potentially increases rallies (Bunker and Thorpe 1982).

We believe that game appreciation should be expanded to include both the game and learner appreciation across all domains (psychomotor, cognitive, and affective) in a more deliberate and planned way. Figure 10.1 shows the simplified tactical games model; however, we have added game appreciation and extended it to include learner appreciation. Game and learner appreciation are the nexus of the tactical model and interface with all three stages (i.e., game and game form, tactical awareness, and skill and movement execution). Game and learner appreciation are essential to learning to play the good game. First, through game appreciation, students continue to develop an appreciation for the rules of the game and how it is played.

Figure 10.1 Game and learner appreciation.
Figure 10.1 Game and learner appreciation.

Second, learner appreciation takes into consideration the social nature (i.e., dynamics and complexity) of games across the different game categories (i.e., target, striking and fielding, net and wall, or invasion). In this way, we view learner as problem-solver. Not only are there students of varying ages, gender identities, ethnicities, and abilities in every class, but these individuals become a diverse group. All students in the class become active players and learners regardless of their different experiences and abilities; therefore, it becomes important for them to be able to handle interpersonal situations constructively (Elias et al. 1997). Placing learner appreciation at the forefront allows us to incorporate SEL into a tactical games model in an intentional way (see table 10.3).

Table 10.3 Essential Components of Game and Learner Appreciation

Creating a game- and learner-centered climate and culture moves games learning beyond a zero-sum (i.e., economic) view. Thus, placing game and learner appreciation at the forefront of the model creates a more holistic approach (Holt, Strean, and Bengoechea 2002). In this way, problem solving is considered as a process (i.e., the learner-game interaction), and in this next section, we explore some pedagogical considerations and sample lessons integrating social and emotional learning through learner appreciation.

Formative Assessment Strategies and Pedagogical Considerations

Sport sociologists have indicated that sport is a microcosm of life (Jarvie 2012). If teachers consider this concept, then sport offers a rich venue for students to learn and develop in real-world ways. To ensure that teachers are intentional, we advocate that formative assessment is necessary for teachers integrating SEL into their classrooms. There are many forms of formative assessment, and not using it is making a strategic mistake (Marzano 2015). After all, the purpose of formative assessment is to assist teachers and students in the teaching and learning process to identify gaps and take action to close the gaps (Heritage 2008). The focus of formative assessment is to establish clear learning goals, track students’ progress toward the goals, and help students identify next steps to attain those goals or modify the goals (Marzano 2015). The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers teaching activities to support the teaching and learning of the core competencies. We recognize that teachers need to have multiple formative assessment strategies for helping students to feel safe, to share, and to explore who they are and how they can grow in a positive way socially and emotionally. We offer the following formative assessment strategies and pedagogical considerations:

  • Teachers as models. Teachers can use a teachable moment to quickly model a behavior (i.e., “stop, watch, and go”). For example, teachers can model verbal and nonverbal ways of giving appropriate feedback and praise, modeling good boundaries, asking appropriate questions, demonstrating active listening, and modeling good sporting behavior. The list of behaviors teachers can model is endless.
  • Think aloud through situational processing. Teachers, as active observers of game play, can witness a game situation and employ a teachable moment to stop and replay the situation and ask the following question within the specific game as a small-group learning opportunity:
    • What happened?
    • What were you thinking at the time?
    • Who has been affected?
    • What do you need to do next time?
  • Role-playing. Teachers can set up role-playing behaviors within the core competencies. A short role-playing exercise gives students voice and the opportunity to analyze situations and problem solve. For example, teachers can have students role-play with a focus on teamwork or respecting others or showing empathy.
  • Scenarios. Teachers can develop scenarios for students to respond through a small-group discussion or in writing. For example, scenarios could focus on ethical issues in sport, good sporting behavior, or being a good winner and loser.
  • Visual. Teachers can present visuals, such as sport figures, that convey messages for discussion on things like goal setting, self-discipline, self-confidence, or appreciating diversity. Teachers can also ask students to share their own visuals with some parameters.
  • Student-generated assessments and peer assessment. Teachers know the power of the peer. Student-generated assessments such as proficiency scales (i.e., rating scales, rubrics) and feedback from peers can be very influential to learning and growing in positive ways (Marzano 2015). These types of assessments do not take a great deal of time and can be used as a baseline for designing a follow-up class discussion.
  • Classroom environment (e.g., gymnasium, bulletin boards, locker room). Many professionals advocate posting different types of messages and using spaces to support social and emotional learning such as good sport posters and a calming space (Bragg 2019).
  • Lesson closure. Teachers need to engage students in some type of processing of the social-emotion competencies of the day. We have called the closure a class huddle. Class huddles can be large or small groups or a self-reflective exit card that would not take more than one minute to complete.
  • Rubric for assessing student game play process. An important aspect to situating SEL within a tactical games approach is for students to learn to negotiate the dynamics of the game being played, whether it is an individual game or a team game (Mitchell, 2016). The rubric (table 10.4) can be used as a form of student self-assessment, peer assessment, or teacher assessment and can form the basis of a discussion during the closure of the lesson.
  • Game Performance Assessment Instrument Game Involvement Index. Although performance is important, we do not want to lose sight of getting students to be involved in the game. Game involvement can be a great form of formative assessment, since this index takes into consideration all student responses (successful or unsuccessful). We want to encourage students to engage in the decision-making and problem-solving processes which are at the heart of game play. Consider the Game Performance Assessment Instrument; in chapter 6 there is a calculation for game involvement that takes into consideration all responses being measured (i.e., as being appropriate and inappropriate) during game play. We believe that the game involvement measures would be valuable to encourage students to increase their involvement.

We have provided teachers with several broad formative assessment strategies and pedagogical considerations for situating SEL within a tactical game approach. Remember that there are numerous resources available through various professional organizations (e.g., the SHAPE America blog and CASEL). Research has shown that formative assessment does improve learning (Back and Wiliam 1998); therefore, it should become an ongoing and regular part of making SEL learning meaningful for all students.