Teaching for Student Learning in Physical Education: Teachers Need to Maximize Appropriate, Individual, Student Practice in Order to Maximize Student Learning of Motor Skills

Article excerpt

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, often said "You haven't taught until they have learned" and "Never mistake activity for achievement." These statements about teaching and learning likely show why Coach Wooden was so successful. They also have implications for teaching physical education--just because teachers are teaching and children are moving does not mean that children are learning. Teaching without learning does not help students develop and grow and does not contribute to their overall education. The goal of teaching is learning, and learning in physical education requires more than activity for children to achieve.


This article is based on the Alliance Scholar Lecture I gave at the AAHPERD meeting in San Diego in 2011, which provided an opportunity to present my research program, I build on the presentation here by discussing research that focuses on research on teaching in physical education, with a particular emphasis on motor skill learning and on student attitude toward physical education. Most of the research and scholarly work I have published has been the product of a team, first with my mentors and then with my students. Throughout this article you will see citations to many of these people who have been critical to the work--and, in the case of my students, have contributed greatly as they have begun to develop as scholars in their own right.

I will begin by presenting a brief theoretical background that has influenced the research I will report. T then will provide some information on the general research methods used for many of the studies that are included in the next section, which gives highlights of results about teaching and learning. That section will first focus on motor skill learning and then on student attitude. Finally, I will offer conclusions.

Theoretical Background

John Carroll (1963, 1989), an educational psychologist, proposed a model of school learning that has influenced my research and provides a way to examine what influences learning in physical education. The model has five components that work together in classrooms and gymnasia. First is student aptitude or skill level--essentially how quickly each individual student can learn the material. Second is the ability of students to understand the teacher's instructions. This, of course, depends on the students' ability and on how closely the teacher matches the instructions to the students' ability to understand. Third is perseverance--the amount of time the student is willing to engage in learning. If students have skill and understand what to do but are not motivated, they will not do what the teacher directs them to do. Fourth is the opportunity to learn, which we can think of as time devoted to instruction. Fifth is the quality of instruction--what the teacher does to structure class and provide learning opportunities for students. Carroll makes the point that each of these components differs for each student and that students learn at different rates. He goes on to suggest that the degree of learning for any individual student is the ratio of time spent on learning and the time needed for learning.

The research that follows that addresses student attitude (the perseverance component of the Carroll model) has been informed by the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen, 1993; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). It suggests that attitude has three components: (1) affect (feelings), (2) beliefs (knowledge), and (3) behavior. Affect and beliefs form a behavioral intention that, theoretically, influences behavior. Because other aspects of a situation influence behavior, it is often believed that affect and beliefs do not have a direct effect on behavior. For example, those who want to eat a healthy diet may believe it is good for them and have a high affect toward healthy eating, but because of cost or time constraints may not actually eat good food in an appropriate amount. …