Teacher Progress and Fourth-Graders' Learning in the Tactical Approach

Friday, April 3, 2009
Exhibit Hall RC Poster Sessions (Tampa Convention Center)
Marshall Townsend1, Jayne Jenkins2 and Tristan L. Wallhead2, (1)Meadowlark Elementary School, Buffalo, WY, (2)University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY

The Tactical Approach (TA) for teaching sport, which stemmed from Teaching Games for Understanding, has become increasingly popular in middle and high school physical education. Recent research has identified that the TA, connected to constructivist theory (Dyson, Griffin, & Hastie, 2004; Kirk & Macdonald, 1998; Rink, French, & Tjeerdsma, 1996), is viewed positively by both students and teachers. Concerning the affective domain, students find the TA to be enjoyable, provide new challenges, and a sense of achievement. Additionally, teachers feel that the TA is more enjoyable for students and involves students more in their own self-learning (Butler, 1996; Cruz, 2004; Light, 2002). Mixed results have been found when comparing the TA with the technique approach in the areas of game play, skill development, and cognitive learning. Little research has been conducted on the TA as an instructional strategy with young learners. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to determine the levels of tactical motor and cognitive learning in fourth grade students. The secondary purpose was to identify the teacher's progress when incorporating a tactical unit of team handball instruction with fourth grade children and identify students' perceptions regarding the implementation of this approach.


Participants included six select students in one fourth grade class, three boys and three girls. Two students were selected within each skill level - high, middle, and low. The teacher (primary researcher) with three years experience had taught several units using the TA and completed a graduate course in the TA. Data collection included pre and post-tests of tactical skill and cognitive understanding, end of lesson free writes, student interviews, and researcher journal. Data were analyzed using qualitative method of constant comparison.


Results revealed students cognitively understood tactics before they could successfully execute them. Students were more successful in three-versus-three end zone defensive/offensive games than in three-versus three or three-versus-two passing games. Students enjoyed engaging in TA because they played games and practiced tactical skills with teammates; however, some students did not enjoy the questioning periods because of the time spent listening. The teacher, limited by time and space, conquered these limits through critical reflection developing an effective line of questioning and sequence of tactics that resulted in success for these children.


It was concluded that children as young as grade four can find success in the tactical approach, but teachers must attend to pertinent questioning techniques, lesson development, and amount of teacher talk.