A number of authors have suggested that the structural aspects of Sport Education serve to support students' needs for relatedness, competence and autonomy. This study examined whether a season designed to be specifically high in a focus on individual competence and autonomy would result in student perceptions of these features.
Seventy-two fourth grade students from two schools in Alabama participated in seasons of jump rope. During practices and competitions, students could chose to perform any of 30 jumps of different point values. During competitions, teams were paired, each alternately scoring the other.
Data were collected through small-group interviews with students following the season. Teachers were also interviewed. Student interviews focused on aspects they found attractive or uninviting. Teacher questions focused on students' engagement. Comparisons with previous jumping rope units were also solicited. Transcripts were analyzed with specific attention being placed on references to “choice”, “inclusion” and “skill competence”.
While most student responses focused on enjoyment and fun, there were sufficient references to self determination to suggest they could distinguish the season as highly autonomy supportive, leading them to suggest this particular format of jumping rope as preferable to more teacher-directed lessons. Teachers supported these claims, suggesting not only higher levels of participation, but also a decrease in problematic behaviors.
The results of this study show that even young children recognize the potential of Sport Education to support self-determined needs and motivation. Future research might examine how high autonomy seasons can be designed for more traditional sports.
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