Applying a Task Progression to the Reciprocal Style of Teaching; Using the Familiar to Introduce the Unfamiliar Eases the Implementation of Change

By Byra, Mark | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, February-September 2004 | Go to article overview
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Applying a Task Progression to the Reciprocal Style of Teaching; Using the Familiar to Introduce the Unfamiliar Eases the Implementation of Change


Byra, Mark, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Breaking down content and sequencing it into meaningful learning experiences is critical to effective teaching. The term associated with this instructional practice is "task progression." When teaching a new skill, physical educators present a progression of tasks to facilitate learning. Each task within the progression adds to the level of difficulty or complexity of the skill being performed. According to Rink (2002), physical educators "use progressions of tasks to lead the learner from beginning levels to more advanced levels with the content" (p. 111). In the following example of a task progression, Emily is teaching her fifth-graders the forearm pass in volleyball:

Task 1. "Standing about 30 feet apart, toss the ball to your partner so that he or she receives it at a low level. Partner, show me what you think would be the best way to return the ball in the direction of your partner." After having given the students time to practice, Emily calls them in and asks, "What skill did you use to return the ball in the direction of your partner and why?" Two students who had some previous experience playing volleyball said, "We used the bump pass because it was low; it wasn't high enough to set." "Great answer, girls! That is correct. By the way, the bump is now called the forearm pass."

Task 2. "Now, I want you to move 10 feet from your partner and complete the same task like this." She tosses the ball, using a two-handed underhand toss, to John, a student demonstrator. Madelyn, who performs the skill with some consistency, passes the ball back to Emily. Emily catches the ball and says to the class, "I am going to toss the ball to Madelyn three more times. Watch her carefully and put a hand up when you can identify one or more skill cues in Madelyn's performance." After passing the ball three times, Emily asks her class, "What are the skill cues for the forearm pass?" The students respond with elbows locked, thumbs parallel, sitting position, and wide base (feet apart, knees bent). "Outstanding," says Emily. "Now, in pairs, toss the ball to your partner 10 times, as demonstrated. Think about the skill cues you identified. After 10 good tosses, switch roles. Continue this task until I ask you to stop. Begin."

Task 3. After observing the students for a minute, Emily notices that many are keeping their arms too close to their bodies on contact. Emily stops the students and says, "Where are my arms, in relation to my body, as I pass?" The students watch her as she passes the ball back to a partner three times. "Melissa, where are they?" "Away from your body," she says. "Good, very good. Now go back to your partner and focus on your arm position." After several minutes of practice, Emily stops her class and says, "We're ready to make the task more game-like."

Task 4. "Get into groups of three." Emily then explains the task with a group of three learners. "Madelyn, you stand on the 10-foot line on that side of the net (net height set at six feet). Take the ball with you. Melissa, you stand just beyond the 10-foot line on this side of the net (opposite side from Madelyn). Get in ready position to forearm pass. Meghan, you need to stand right beside the net on Melissa's side. You are the target for Melissa. Madelyn, toss the ball to Melissa, just like we did in the last drill, so that she can forearm pass the ball to Meghan." The three demonstrate the task three times, at which time Emily instructs them to rotate positions (passer to target, target to tosser, tosser to passer). "Are there any questions about what you need to do and how you need to rotate positions?" asks Emily. "How do we score points?" asks Jon. "Your group of three scores a point each time the target catches the ball without moving his or her feet. Okay, form groups of three and begin the task."

Presenting content to learners in a simple-to-complex or part-to-whole task progression is a widely accepted strategy used in physical education instruction (Metzler, 2000; Rink, 2002; Siedentop & Tannehill, 2000) and is supported by research (French et al.

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