Get aboard the B-BOAT (Biomechanically Based Observation and Analysis for Teachers)

By Abendroth-Smith, Julianne; Kras, John et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Get aboard the B-BOAT (Biomechanically Based Observation and Analysis for Teachers)


Abendroth-Smith, Julianne, Kras, John, Strand, Bradford, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


An instructor is teaching the basketball jump shot to a group of young physical education students. She demonstrates the movement, pointing out all the components of a successful shot. The students line up at the baskets, eager to try.

The instructor observes many attempts but few baskets. Where should she begin to correct the multitude of errors she has just witnessed? Overwhelmed by the different ability levels and the vast array of jump shot features that could be pointed out, the instructor simply says, "Good effort; keep trying," and moves on to the next set of students. Little learning has taken place during the lesson.

This scenario can be seen time and again in skill-learning situations. Although the observation process in physical education has been identified as critical to effective instruction and to the development of competence in students (Allison, 1985), it is often not a recognized part of teacher education programs (Barrett, 1983). The goal of this article is to introduce to the field teacher a methodology for developing the art of observation through biomechanics. This methodology will help physical education teachers identify and prioritize the critical features, or checkpoints, of skills that students are required to learn.

Teacher and Student Responsibilities

The role of the teacher can be split into three areas: teacher development, teacher requirements, and teacher function. Teacher development involves deciding what information to initially send to the student, what observation methods to use, and how to correct errors. Teacher requirements include knowing the skill, the skill level of the student, what the skill looks like when done correctly, what the student is doing, and what prescriptions to use to remediate errors. The teacher then conveys that information to the student, who has the responsibility to receive the task assignment, perform the task, and receive feedback [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

The physical education curriculum in higher education focuses mainly on the teacher requirements and functions. Activity classes focus on learning the skills themselves, while methodology classes focus on many of the other teacher requirements. Teacher development, however, is often lacking, especially the component of deciding what the critical aspects of given skills are.

Rink (1993) identifies the first component of using systematic observation as "deciding what to look for" (p. 276). However, she adds, "Determining possible causes of problems is not easy and requires a great deal of reflection on the part of the teacher" (p. 277). Along the same line of thought, Siedentop (1991) states:

For skill feedback to be effective, it has to be accurate... The teacher would have to know the skill well enough to accurately discriminate the presence or absence of critical skill elements in the student's performance. All the related evidence suggests that most teachers do not have this kind of discriminatory capability. (p. 39)

Currently, a kinesiology or biomechanics class is required for accreditation in the physical education curriculum in higher education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1995). These classes traditionally focus on the fundamentals of biomechanics, without explaining how to apply this information. Many biomechanics textbooks contain only brief sections on using knowledge for observation and analysis. All too often, published biomechanical analyses have little direct application for instructors. Therefore, rather than try to gain something useful from this type of course, many field teachers turn to the coaching literature for help in deciding the critical features of a skill.

The coaching literature, however, is often too general to be useful, or the hints given are meant to correct symptoms rather than causes of problems. Norman (1975) states, "Skill coaching...has been retarded by an inability to distinguish among causes of errors, symptoms of errors and idiosyncrasies in performance. …

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