What Is Sport Education and How Does It Work?

By Siedentop, Daryl | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 1998 | Go to article overview

What Is Sport Education and How Does It Work?


Siedentop, Daryl, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Sport education is a curriculum and instruction model designed to provide authentic, educationally rich sport experiences for girls and boys in the context of school physical education (Siedentop, 1994). Sport education has an important curricular implication; that is, it cannot be fitted easily into a short unit, multiactivity program. Sport education also has important instructional implications; that is, its purposes are best achieved through combinations of direct instruction, cooperative small-group work, and peer teaching, rather than by total reliance on directive, drill-oriented teaching.

Basic Features

Sport education has six key features, which derive from how sport is conducted in community and interschool contexts (i.e., they derive from the authentic form of the activity within the larger culture). These features are seasons, affiliation, formal competition, culminating events, record keeping, and festivity.

Seasons. The "unit" in sport education is often two to three times longer than typical physical education units. The operational assumption here is that less is more or that fewer activities covered in greater depth result in better educational outcomes than can be realized in the more typical, short unit, multiple-activity format.

Affiliation. Students become members of teams at the start of a season and retain their team affiliation throughout the season. Students plan, practice, and compete as a team. This feature also derives from evidence that suggests that much of the social meaning derived from sport experiences, as well as a large part of the personal growth often attributed to positive sport experiences, is intimately related to affiliation with a persisting group.

Formal competition. Sport seasons are typically defined by a schedule of formal competition interspersed with practice sessions. The affiliation and formal competition features combine to provide the opportunity for planning and goal setting that create the context for pursuing important outcomes that have real meaning for students.

Culminating event. It is in the nature of sport to find out who is best for a particular season and for others to mark their progress in relationship to that outcome. Culminating events (track and field finals, volleyball championships, etc.) create the opportunity for festival and celebration of accomplishments, a significant characteristic of play and sport (Siedentop, 1981, 1994).

Record keeping. Records (shots on goals, points scored, times, blocks, steals, assists, etc.) provide feedback for individuals and groups. Records help to define standards and are fundamental to defining goals (reducing turnovers, improving times in a race, placing higher in a round-robin competition). Records also help to define sport traditions locally (6th-grade record for the long jump, 9th-grade team record for fewest points allowed per game in basketball).

Festivity. Sport competitions are occasions for festivity, from the major festivals associated with the Olympic Games to the Friday night festival of a high school football game to the family festival of a children's soccer game. In sport education, teachers and students work together to create a continual festival that celebrates improvement, trying hard, and playing fairly (posters, team colors, player introductions, award ceremonies, videotaping).

It should be noted that none of these features is typically present in physical education. Instead, physical education is most frequently presented as a smorgasbord curriculum of short units. Students often do not know what will transpire in a class when they enter the teaching space. Team membership changes within lessons. The total experience is lacking in festivity.

Sport education is not, however, a direct simulation of institutionalized sport. It differs in three distinct ways: participation requirements, developmentally appropriate competition, and diverse roles. …

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