Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Children Learning Lacrosse from Teachers Learning to Teach It: The Discovery of Pedagogical Content Knowledge by Observing Children's Movement

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Children Learning Lacrosse from Teachers Learning to Teach It: The Discovery of Pedagogical Content Knowledge by Observing Children's Movement

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to describe pedagogical content knowledge discovered within the context of children learning lacrosse from teachers learning to teach it. This particular form of teacher knowledge was first made explicit by Lee Shulman (1986a) when he alerted the research community of its neglect in studying how teachers' understanding of content may affect their teaching. He defined pedagogical content knowledge as knowledge that "goes beyond knowledge of subject matter per se to the dimension of subject matter knowledge for teaching" (Shulman, 1986a, p. 9). It "refers to the understanding of how particular topics, principles, strategies, and the like in specific subject areas are comprehended or typically misconstrued, are learned and likely to be forgotten" (Shulman, 1986b, p. 26). It is what McDiarmid, Ball, and Anderson (1989) termed subject-specific pedagogy. Central to their perspective is a "flexible understanding" of the subject matter that involves not only knowledge about the subject matter itself, but knowing it well enough to "increase one's understanding of and thereby power within one's environment" (McDiarmid et al., 1989, p. 2). Such an understanding, they wrote, "enables one to take a critical perspective on the 'facts' and to see them as interpretations rather than as absolutes" (p. 2).

Efforts to frame current research on teaching physical education using the concept of pedagogical content knowledge are emerging in our literature. For example, Walkwitz and Lee (1992) studied how "the knowledge veteran teachers have about the mechanical aspects of throwing is transformed and used during classroom instruction" (Walkwitz and Lee, 1992, p. 179). These teachers were studied "to determine not only what they observed but also what they did after an observation, and a major focus was the subject matter knowledge of teachers and the ways this knowledge was translated into classroom events" (p. 180). Through stimulated-recall procedures, the researchers showed that their teachers were able to integrate the mechanical aspects of throwing "with what they already knew about effective teaching and were able to use the knowledge to assess their students' performance during practice" (p. 184).

As part of a more recent study, Graber (1995) used interview data to examine how student teachers from two different universities believed they used pedagogical content knowledge in their lessons, as opposed to general pedagogical knowledge (e.g., class organization and management, discipline). When asked to describe how they used pedagogical content knowledge, they indicated that they had had no specific training to do so. As examples, they described trial-and-error strategies, imitation of teachers, and assessing children's ability specific to the activity to be taught. Further, they commented on the difficulty they had in teaching an activity with which they were unfamiliar. A limitation of her study, and acknowledged by Graber herself, is that these findings were based on interview data only and thus did not give the researcher the opportunity to observe first-hand the student teachers' actual teaching or their students' responses.

Although the Graber (1995) and Walkwitz and Lee (1992) studies focused on pedagogical content knowledge, the level of their analyses seems too general to gain insight into the specifics of this concept. For example, in the Walkwitz and Lee study, data were missing that spoke directly to what the teachers actually asked the children to do to elicit, for example, opposite foot-stepping or increased pelvic-spine rotation. Descriptions at this level of specificity and concreteness will have to occur if we are to discover powerful pedagogical content knowledge that ultimately can be used by teachers. Three of Rovegno's studies (1992a, 1992b, 1993) and one conducted by Stroot and Oslin (1993) suggest this is beginning to occur.

Using the interpretive paradigm, Rovegno studied preservice teachers during their undergraduate coursework at two different universities. …

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