Colors of Competence in Competition: A Guide for Active Learning in Competitive Activities

Article excerpt

COMPETITIVE GAME PLAY is often taught in early elementary school as a way for students to engage in activities in physical education. Although well-intentioned, many of these lessons are often designed based on the "concepts" of the competitive activity, rather than on the individual needs of the student. Consequently, students are often put into competitive situations without having mastered the skills necessary to engage in the assigned activity (Bernstein, Phillips, & Silverman, 2011). As a result, many students are often not developmentally ready to participate in lead-up or competitive games and activities. If students are placed in competitive activities without proficiency in the necessary skins, this may negatively affect student attitude toward physical education and physical activity (Subramaniam & Silverman, 2002).


Young children can learn their relative competence in terms of skills by competing and comparing themselves to their peers. Children often initiate play with other children beginning at the age of 4 up until the age of 7. They are, however, unable to accurately analyze their own ability until they reach the age of about 12 (Roberts, 2001). Once children can analyze their abilities, physical competence can unlock the gate to social acceptance and can be a desired commodity for those who attain it (Craft, Pfeiffer, & Pivarnik, 2003; Evans & Roberts, 1987). Therefore, it is beneficial to have students focus on the skill so they are better able to participate in the competitive activities offered.

Students as Active Participants

The idea of actively involving children in the learning process can be beneficial for both teacher and student on a number of levels. Allowing students in physical education class to make choices has been incorporated into elementary-age teaching successfully. Teaching by Invitation (Graham, Holt/Hale, & Parker, 2009) allows students to participate at a level at which they are comfortable, but it also fosters an emotionally safe environment where children may be more willing to take a risk. Essentially, this style of teaching is an effective technique that adjusts tasks or activities to allow for individual differences (Tjeerdsma, 1995). The teacher provides the tasks and allows the student to determine which task best suits their needs and abilities. Ultimately, students are held accountable for their own learning, which allows them to monitor their progress and their skill development. It also allows students to enhance their levels of competence and control as they move through a unit. When students are given both choice and accountability for accomplishing the task with success, student enjoyment of that task can increase (Lysniak, Gibbone, & Silverman, 2011).

The Colors of Competence in Competition

As a way to invite students to become more active participants in their learning, teachers can introduce them to a model called the "Colors of Competence in Competition" (CCC), which allows students to participate, track, and make decisions about their skill levels and the types of activities in which they participate throughout a unit. Students can identify their level of skill and competitive participation (beginner, intermediate, advanced) by using the CCC Guide (Tjeerdsma, 1995). This guideline provides a strategy designed for both students and teachers to track progress in skill attainment.

Using colors has been shown to increase motivation in problem-solving tasks (Hatter, 1975) in education, and color identification is a critical skill in obtaining general knowledge (Johnson, Gallagher, Cook, & Wong, 1995). In the CCC Guide, each skill level is assigned a certain color according to proficiency of the identified skill. The guide is a pyramid representing three different levels of skill: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. With the understanding that different skills may develop at different times and at different levels, it should be noted that beginning and intermediate levels both emphasize modified games, or individual skill practice meant to advance specific skills. …