Inappropriate Teaching Practices

By Williams, Neil F. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Inappropriate Teaching Practices


Williams, Neil F., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


It is with the idea of enhancing the critical thinking processes of physical education teachers that a new installment of the physical education Hall of Shame series has been written. Previously, two Hall of Shame articles focused on specific games and activities (Williams, 1992, 1994). In this article, poor teaching practices which reflect a lack of critical thinking on the part of their adherents are identified.

In a recent JOPERD feature (McBride, 1995), several authors explained how critical thinking can become part of physical education classes for students at every level (Blitzer, 1995), from elementary school (Cleland & Pearse, 1995) to middle school (Woods & Book, 1995) to high school (Greenockle & Purvis, 1995). But critical thinking must become part of the physical educator's teaching processes as well. In order to physically educate our students, we teachers must also become Newman's (1990) "models of thoughtfulness" in the way we plan, organize, and teach. It is only through critical thinking and thoughtfulness that we will be able to implement developmentally appropriate physical education and "increase the likelihood of enjoyable, challenging, and successful learning for all students" (Grineski, 1992, p. 60).

Students on Display

This teaching technique is often used for gymnastic routines, rope climbs, or skills tests. It occurs when one student performs a routine or skill while everyone else in the entire class gets to sit and watch. Since only one person is active at any given time, class control, teacher evaluation, and performer safety are all greatly enhanced. But at what price?

Only the strong survive while they are on display. And even though this may be fine for the most talented and confident students, it can be devastating to the fragile self-image of many low- and middle-level performers (Bowyer, 1996). It is possible that more students lose sleep over this teaching practice than anything else we do. It is actually an incredible misuse of time for all students, since the total activity time for any one student in a 30-minute class is probably going to be under 60 seconds.

Solutions: Use station work, which allows students to participate in several familiar, safe activities while the instructor focuses attention on a small group of students. When students are productively busy and active, they don't have the opportunity to watch one another perform, and many potentially embarrassing situations can be avoided.

One Line, One Ball, One Change

This teaching technique is a close relative of Students on Display. Many of us are saddled with large classes, poor facilities, minimal equipment, and low budgets, and we often use these excuses to justify having a group of 15 or more students line up for a turn at shooting a basketball, climbing a rope, or working on the beam. It's another teaching technique that makes planning, organizing, teaching, and control much easier than it might otherwise be.

But according to the analogy in Henneberger's (1993) discussion of current trends in physical education, "making children wait in line to use one ball is like giving a class one pen...and expecting them to learn to write" (p. 1). All students need to practice, and the more they practice, the more skilled they are likely to become. But that simply can't happen if there aren't enough learning stations and equipment. No classroom teacher would consider the "one pen" idea, and neither should we. Long lines put pressure on each performer to do it right every time because chances are so few and far between. Long lines also waste valuable learning time. There is "little or no opportunity for all students to acquire... psychomotor skills" (Grineski, 1992, p. 35).

Solutions: We need to think creatively and critically in order to devise alternative learning stations and use improvised equipment to maximize class participation and learning. Even if our solutions do not involve "official height, size and weight," the extra practice is worthwhile. …

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