College Students' Perspectives, Goals, and Strategies in Sport Education

Article excerpt

We examined the perspective, goals, and strategies of students enrolled in collegiate physical education courses. Our aim was to determine the extent to which a model developed by Allen (1986) describing student-social systems in high schools would approximate those in a collegiate setting. Forty-six students from two elective volleyball classes completed online surveys and participated in group interviews. It was determined that while specific parts of the original model were appropriate for describing college students' agendas for physical education, participation in the Sport Education model provided a more complimentary (in contrast to adversarial) link between the students' quest for good grades and their socializing strategies. A more appropriate model is presented.

Key words: ecology, social system, physical education


In 1986, James Allen spent a year "undercover" to investigate classroom management from the high school student's perspective. Allen's finding suggested that students use six strategies to achieve two major goals during classroom events. The combination of strategies was based on different contextual features of each classroom. The major goals were to give teachers what they want while having fun and socializing with classmates. These goals, together with the specific strategies, were conceptualized in a model shown in Figure 1. Allen referred to this as the "students' classroom agenda model" (Allen, 1986, p. 445).

Allen's (1986) research was grounded in the classroom ecology paradigm, developed by Doyle (1977, 1986) to study classroom life as it naturally unfolds. Doyle's work emerged from his concern that classroom research had a narrow emphasis on the teacher and a lack of focus on student behaviors and social interactions. Focusing on the notion of "tasks," Doyle suggested that two main task systems are operating interdependently in classrooms. The first is the managerial tasks system, which provides hales, routines, and expectations for students. The second is the instructional system involving the presentation and practice of subject matter. It was Allen's (1986) research that presented a third task system which related more to students' social interactions and lesson agendas. Following Allen, Wentzel (1989) investigated the relationship between adolescent efforts to achieve academic and nonacademic classroom goals, social and task-related standards for performance, and academic achievement. The results indicated that motivation to achieve socially prescribed and cognitive outcomes was relevant to academic classroom performance. In physical education, Jones (1992) was the first to mention the existence of an informal social task system operating in an elementary school setting but did not provide detailed accounts of students' social agendas.

Hastie and Pickwell (1996) provided the first focused examination of a student social system functioning within physical education. Consistent with Allen's findings (1986), many students in this study were particularly adept at finding ways to minimize work and have fun while still passing the course. These findings were explained in conjunction with the task structure and accountability systems put in place by the teacher. The teacher was content to trade off lower levels of participation in the instructional task system for nondisruptive behavior allowing a relatively unimpeded achievement of the students' social objectives.

A number of authors in sport pedagogy have used this heuristic in a variety of settings (see Hastie & Siedentop, 1999). For example, Supaporn, Dodds, and Griffin (2003) examined how the classroom ecology (including the student social system) and program of action influence participants' understandings of misbehavior in a middle school physical education setting. Griffin, Siedentop, and Tannehill (1998) showed intimate interactions between the managerial, instructional, and student social systems in a high school volleyball setting. …