Influence of Negotiations on Instruction During University Activity Courses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Exhibit Hall Poster Area 1 (Convention Center)
Zachary Wahl-Alexander and Matthew D. Curtner-Smith, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Research conducted previously indicated that negotiations between preservice teachers and pupils differed in type, amount, and effect on instruction during units taught within different curricular models to elementary and middle school children. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of negotiations between graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate university students on GTAs’ instruction within activity courses.


Participants were 10 GTAs who taught a variety of activities within one university’s basic physical education program. Six of the GTAs were studying sport pedagogy (SP) and four were studying exercise science (ES). Data collection techniques employed were non-participant observation, document analysis, and formal and informal interviews.


Data were analyzed by employing analytic induction and constant comparison. Key findings were that students initiated negotiations mainly aimed at reducing accountability in terms of attendance, class length, and evaluation. These negotiations were usually verbal and had the by-product of increasing time to socialize. They were more powerful when initiated by a group of students. Student-initiated negotiations aimed at changing instructional tasks were limited, engaged in more often by students of lower ability, and were mostly aimed at increasing game play and decreasing time spent on skill practice. Patterns of student-initiated negotiations were similar across activities and for both genders. They were, however, different within classes taught by ES and SP GTAs. Specifically, classes taught by ES GTAs tended to feature relatively more negative student-initiated negotiations. This was because ES GTAs primarily employed direct styles of teaching and the multi-activity curriculum model which did not provide an outlet for student voice. Moreover, ES GTAs’ managerial frameworks were relatively weak and did not deter students from engaging in negative negotiations. Further, ES GTAs’ content knowledge was relatively weak. Consequently, they provided fewer refining and extending tasks and the pace of their lessons was comparatively slow. In contrast, the SP GTAs deterred negative negotiation by including more tasks and teaching at a quicker pace. Moreover, they employed more indirect styles of teaching and curricular models (teaching games for understanding and sport education) which encouraged students to engage in positive forms of negotiation and incorporated time in which they could socialize.     


The results of the study suggest several courses of action that might lead to improvements in GTAs’ instructional quality. These include interventions aimed at  improving GTAs’ pedagogical range and skill, content and curricular knowledge, and their ability to negotiate.