The Development of In-Service Teachers' Knowledge of a Constructivist Approach to Physical Education: Teaching beyond Activities

Article excerpt

Information about how learners acquire knowledge and skills is critical for teachers, and, thus, has been the focus of research across fields of study. For students of all ages and in fields ranging from mathematics, geography, history, science, computing, literacy, physics, astronomy, writing, medical education, and teacher education to the motor domain research has documented patterns of knowledge acquisition and skill development. The broad goal of such research is to describe characteristics of novices' knowledge and skill, common patterns of change, and developmental pathways from novice to expert.

More specifically, in teacher education, goals for research on how teachers acquire content knowledge and instructional skills would include describing how and why teachers' knowledge and practices change over time; content, issues, and teaching skills that are difficult to learn or implement; developmental milestones in learning to teach; and problems and topics salient at various stages of a teacher's career. Armed with such information, teacher educators and staff developers can better plan curriculum and instruction and more effectively structure environments to facilitate teacher learning.

Research on Learning a Movement Approach

Of relevance to this study is the research describing how teachers acquire knowledge of and learn to teach constructivist-oriented movement approaches. One major finding is that some aspects of the movement approach are problematic or difficult to learn. One such problematic aspect reported in several studies was progression. For example, in one study preservice teachers initially planned progressions from skill content to game play and did not recognize the importance of breaking down and sequencing game strategy content (Rovegno, 1993b). Sebran (1995) reported that while four of seven methods course students considered the necessary prerequisite and future content in their planning, three students taught lessons as isolated content without considering it in relation to a larger progression. In two different teacher education programs, preservice teachers initially planned large-stepped, disjointed progressions (Rovegno, 1992a, 1992b, 1993b). They reported an important change in their knowledge was when they learned to plan more small-stepped progressions that better encompassed where the unit began as well as where it would end.

A second major problematic aspect of the movement approach reported in studies of two programs was that preservice teachers initially did not understand the big picture. In one program, undergraduates reported problems knowing how lesson activities linked to broader content goals, objectives, and the deeper meaning of the subject matter (Rovegno, 1992a). They had problems initially knowing how components of the movement approach (e.g., developing skill, insuring success for all children, and helping children become independent learners) were connected and worked together in practice (Rovegno, 1993a). Similarly, in a different program, Sebran (1995) found that three of seven undergraduates in an elementary methods course understood pieces of the approach but did not understand the whole. These findings iterate research on classroom teaching in which novices or teachers with limited subject matter knowledge had problems connecting lesson activities to future lessons, broader concepts, or broader objectives (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1987).

A third major problem reported while learning the movement approach was inadequate pedagogical content knowledge (Rovegno, 1991, 1992b, 1993b; Sebran, 1995). Preservice teachers reported problems understanding how children learn content, what to expect, and how to interpret children's developmental patterns (Rovegno, 1991, 1992b, 1993b). They were unable initially to judge accurately the children's prior experience and skill level nor to anticipate how children would respond to their verbal tasks (Sebran, 1995). …