Expertise in Teaching Physical Education

By Manross, Dean; Templeton, Charles L. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Expertise in Teaching Physical Education


Manross, Dean, Templeton, Charles L., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The following two articles continue the feature, Developing Expertise in Teaching and Coaching, which began in the February 1997 JOPERD. In the first of the two articles, the eight critical characteristics involved in developing an expert were detailed. The second article focused on the developmental stages of expertise, from novice to expert. In these concluding articles, the specific aspects unique to physical education experts are discussed in the third article while the fourth article discusses the illusive qualities of an expert coach, drawing upon examples of several expert coaches.

The mysteries surrounding teaching expertise have begun to attract the attention of teachers, teacher educators, and scholars. In the field of education, much research has been completed on expert classroom teachers. One concern driving researchers has been the desire to identify differences between the thoughts and actions of novices and experts. Recently, educational scholars have begun to understand the path in which expertise is developed (Berliner, 1994). The field of physical education is equally interested in the phenomenon of expertise. What makes expert physical educators consistently teach at high levels of professional competence? To better understand experts and teaching expertise, this article highlights the major characteristics of expert physical education teachers. To help aspiring and practicing teachers, the article closes with practical suggestions for developing pedagogical expertise.

Characteristics of Expertise

Expert teaching has several meanings. Recently, Dodds (1994) defined teaching expertise as "a global construct that refers to the ease with which teachers perform their work to maximize student learning" (p. 156). In other words, expert teachers have developed and used teaching practices that optimize student achievement encompassing different students and conditions. Siedentop and Eldar (1994) believe expertise is an extension of effective teaching. That is, expertise represents a level beyond effective teaching. To be an expert, a teacher must couple superior teaching skills with an extensive understanding of the subject matter.

Expert teachers have distinctive characteristics that set them apart from the majority of teachers. Their thoughts, actions, and overall performance are qualitatively different than those of less expert teachers. Because limited research has been conducted on the expertise of physical education teachers, there remains much to learn about these teachers and their characteristics. The available research, however, provides some insight as to what the qualities of expertise are in physical education teaching. Though the following description of characteristics is not intended as a recipe for expertise, we have identified some traits often found in the practices and perspectives of expert teachers.

Thorough and Complete Planning

Instructional planning creates a guide for orchestrating smooth, purposeful lessons. It helps teachers organize and manage class operations, as well as student learning activities. Expert teachers strive to form a clear, thorough picture of what they are going to do in a lesson, who they are going teach, and what equipment they will use. These teachers often require information about their students that will help them in shaping an effective lesson geared to students' level of competence and ability (Housner & Griffey, 1985).

In constructing lessons that optimize student participation and learning, expert teachers make effective and creative use of their environment (i.e., equipment, facilities, and supplies). By demonstrating great flexibility in the use of equipment, experts are able to create unique learning devices and can stretch limited budgets to maximum effect. In the hands of an expert teacher, an ordinary object can become a helpful learning device.

Perhaps one of the greatest differences separating expert teachers from less expert teachers resides in their development of contingency plans that meet the demands of an ever-changing classroom climate (Graham, French, & Woods, 1993; Housner & Griffey, 1985; Griffey & Housner, 1991; Solmon & Lee, 1991; Manross, Tan, Fincher, & Schempp, 1994). …

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