Learning the Skill Theme Approach: Salient and Problematic Aspects of Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to describe salient aspects of pedagogical content knowledge that preservice physical education teachers acquired and found problematic while learning a specific skill theme approach (Graham, Holt/Hale, & Parker, 1993) to teaching elementary physical education during their field-based methods course. The participants were four preservice teachers who were taking the field-based elementary methods course at a major university. Data were collected by conducting 15 weeks of observations while taking field notes, informal and formal interview with transcripts, and document collection. The findings indicated that the preservice teachers came to value the objectives of this specific skill theme approach, understood relationships among movement concepts and children's skill levels, and attempted to present movement variety and refining tasks simultaneously. However, the preservice teachers had problems associated with responding to students' inappropriate and limited movement responses.


Since Shulman (1986) proposed a conceptual framework of knowledge base for effective teaching, developing preservice teachers' pedagogical content knowledge has received substantial attention among researchers and teacher educators in physical education (Ennis, 1991 ; Graber, 1995; Rovegno, 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 1998; Sebren, 1995). This is because the nature of pedagogical content knowledge reflects the major goal of teacher education that equips preservice teachers with knowledge about content and knowledge about how to teach that content to students at different developmental levels. The integration of content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge is a unique professional knowledge base for teachers, known as pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986, Grossman, 1990).

Research on Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Elementary Physical Education Teaching

Researchers in physical education have begun investigating the development of preservice and inservice teachers' pedagogical content knowledge within a specific context of teacher education programs that have adopted movement approaches to teaching elementary physical education (Ennis, 1991; Rovegno, 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 1998; Sebren, 1995). Studies by Rovegno (1992, 1993a, 1993b) revealed that some aspects of pedagogical content knowledge were initially difficult and problematic for preservice teachers to learn. For example, the preservice teachers tended to plan isolated lesson contents without organizing them into a progressive sequence because they lacked understanding of the whole picture of the meaningful movement approach developed by Young, Klesius, and Hoffman (1994). Due to the fact that the preservice teachers had inadequate knowledge of children's understanding and developmental levels, they were unable to anticipate how children learned content and what types of learning tasks were more difficult or easier for children. They were also unable to interpret how children's developmental levels influenced their responses to movement tasks. When responding to children's learning, the preservice teachers thought they could not provide children with any specific performance feedback when the children were participating in exploratory movement tasks. They initially equated teaching movement approach lessons with teaching by not telling and not intervening.

Studies by Rovegno (1993a) and Sebren (1995), however, reported that preservice teachers' beliefs and knowledge about some aspects of movement approaches were qualitatively changed and constructed through learning in field-based methods courses and related courses. For example, Rovegno (1993a) found that the preservice teachers came to realize that developing students' self-responsibilities and cooperative abilities was one of the major goals for the meaningful movement approach. They recognized that developing students' skillful performance was central to movement approach lessons. …