Comparative Advantage: An Economics Lesson in Collaboration for Teachers and Coaches

By Schutten, Mary; McFarland, Allison J. | Physical Educator, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview
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Comparative Advantage: An Economics Lesson in Collaboration for Teachers and Coaches


Schutten, Mary, McFarland, Allison J., Physical Educator


Abstract

Much attention is paid in education to assessing teaching effectiveness. Collegiate textbooks, professional development workshops, and professional journals overflow with indicators of this trait. An underlying assumption is that a primary task of teachers and coaches is to identify, develop, and reduce areas of weakness in their student-athletes and themselves. Although historically embraced, encouraging educators to devote large blocks of time to developing personal non-strengths may need to be revisited. Maybe it is time to rethink our emphasis on producing well-rounded educators, coaches, and students who are moderately accomplished in all areas, and replace it with a philosophy of identifying, fostering, and focusing on areas of strength. The economic principle of comparative advantage is one possible way to refocus our thinking toward building an effective educational experience in the physical education classroom and competitive arena. This economic principle is explained and then application is made to both the physical education classroom and the coaching setting.

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Much attention is paid in education to assessing teaching effectiveness. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has articulated ten benchmarks for beginning physical education teachers, and standards are currently being adapted to the coaching preparation programs. Collegiate textbooks, professional development workshops, and professional journals overflow with indicators of the traits desired in physical educators and physically educated students. Such lists often evaluate the educator's ability to foster a warm, positive learning climate; maintain a high rate of on-task behavior; adapt his/her teaching style to individual needs; demonstrate efficient classroom management; and show evidence of academic competency among students. As a result of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994), all disciplines possess content standards that define what students should know and be able to do as a result of a quality educational program. An underlying assumption in the NASPE standards and the Goals 2000 Act is that a primary task of teachers and coaches is to identify, develop, and reduce areas of weakness in their student-athletes and themselves.

Although historically embraced, encouraging educators to devote large blocks of time to developing personal non-strengths may need to be revisited. As working adults we have identified our strengths, and in most cases have pursued a career that encouraged and allowed the expression of these traits. Few of us would argue that many of life's demands are beyond our expertise: We call a septic company when sewage backs up into our house; we take our complicated tax returns to a certified public accountant who is knowledgeable about new tax laws; and we let our veterinarian perform surgery on our family pet. It would be counter-productive for us to attempt to gain knowledge, experience, and ultimately strengths in every region of our lives; yet our educational focus continues to reflect this viewpoint. Maybe it is time to rethink our emphasis on producing well-rounded educators, coaches, and students who are moderately accomplished in all areas, and replace it with a philosophy of identifying, fostering, and focusing areas of strength.

Comparative Advantage

In his 1776 groundbreaking book, The Wealth of Nations (Hill, 2001), Adam Smith argued that countries differ in their ability to produce goods efficiently, and should therefore engage in the practice of international trade. At that point, the English, by virtue of their advanced manufacturing processes, were the world's most efficient textile manufacturers. Good climate, rich soils, and tradition assisted the French in developing the world' s most efficient wine industry. Consequently, the English had an absolute advantage in the production of textiles, while the French had an absolute advantage in the production of wine.

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