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Evaluation of Direct Instruction in Sports Coaching

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sports
Wordcount: 1928 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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There are many different instructional approaches to coaching and teaching, but one widely employed approach by many skilled coaches and teachers is direct instruction. Direct instruction in relation to sports coaching is a general term for explicit coaching of a skill/skill set using certain concepts and theories. Direct instruction was first seen in 1964 when Engelmann and Becker from the university of Illinois sought to identify teaching methods that would help accelerate the learning of disadvantaged students in elementary schools. Since, direct instruction has developed into an approach which can be implemented by coaches and teachers for students and athletes of all levels.

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The stage or age of an athlete determines how you coach or how athlete centered you need to be. Your coaching approach isn’t either coach centered, or athlete centered, it sits on a continuum as who we are coaching and the selection of what we teach for the athlete depends on where they are on the continuum. For example, my lesson plan was centered around primary school children year 5/6 (10-11 years old), you wouldn’t use the same coaching approach/style for a 10-11 year-old as you would a 13-14 year-old.  Different age groups have different abilities and behaviours both physical and psychological. If you refer to Bronfenbrenner (1978) ecosystems/ecological theory in context of human development the microsystem (family, friends, education etc.), mesosystem (different interactions between the characters of the microsystem), exosystem (community, school system, mass media etc.) and macrosystem (cultural values, political philosophy, national customs etc.) play a massive role in determining an athletes behaviour. An athletes behaviour can mainly be traced from the ecosystems, as a person’s behaviour can be shaped through positive and negative reinforcers, which can be seen in many of societies socializing institutions (Skinner 1938). In order to shape an athletes behaviour in my session I referred to Skinner (1938) behaviourist learning theory, “shaping behaviour through the use of reinforcers and punishers”. In the management/organizational points of my session plan I have used positive reinforcement, “introducing a positive stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future” (Skinner 1938)

, specifically praise, thumbs up, head nod. In my future sessions I will look to implement both positive and negative reinforcement as I get to know the athletes as well as reinforcement schedules. By the using the fundamentals of the behaviourist learning theory as a coach I can look to employ a variety of strategies to help shape the athletes behaviour.

Direct instruction is not the only instructional model. There are others such as personalized system for instruction, peer teaching cooperative learning, inquiry teaching and games coaching. For my session I have chosen to take coach centered approach which complements and coincides with direct instruction and behaviourist learning theory. Direct instruction involves skills being broken down into manageable success orientated parts, tasks designed for practice opportunities and when there is lower cognitive levels of understanding. To achieve this my session is broken down into 4 main parts (informing, refining, extending, applying) (Rink 1988) by using the concept of skill acquisition, specifically random/blocked practice and stages of skill learning.

In my refining stage of my session plan you can see the skills being broken down into manageable success-oriented parts. The skill, the rugby pass is broken down into three key learning points. 1. Start from the hip. 2. Elbows up. 3. Follow through and point at your target. These are visual and oral ques for the athlete which also provide the focus for learning and feedback. You can also see that the task was designed for practice opportunities as the atheltes were put into pairs which allowed them to practice their pass and the key learning points with maximal time on the ball as each pair had a ball so there was no wait time involved. This was blocked practice as the learner performed a single skill over and over again with repetition being key. According to Shea and Morgan (1979) 30% of training should be blocked and the other 70% should be random practice which is why the refining stage is the only blocked practice in my session. Random practice is an approach that is a randomized/modified routine which means that you can never do the same thing twice. For example, in the applying stage of my session the athletes played a modified game of touch. This meant that although in the game the athletes were practicing their rugby pass and key learning points, they were also practicing the 3 main parts of a game skill – read, plan, do. In a game like scenario the athletes are forced to read the situation that is in front of them, plan and think about what they are going to do/ how they are going to react and deicide what action they are going to take and do it.

In terms of having a lower cognitive understanding the athletes I was coaching/planning my session for were in the cognitive stage of skill learning. Obviously not all athletes are in the same stage of learning, so I used Fitts & Posner (1967) three stages of skill learning to help me identify where the individual athletes are at in relation to their stage of skill learning.  Majority of my athletes I was coaching were in the cognitive stage. This is the informative and refining stage, it is where you observe the athlete making a lot of mistakes. At the start of the session during the catch activity I could straight away see that some of the athletes had played sport involving a rugby type ball e.g. rugby, touch, rugby league or they were just an all-round naturally talented sports woman so they had already in the associative phase. The associative phase is known as the “practice phase”. The performances of the skill are now becoming more consistent although they are still making errors, the simple parts of the skills now look fluent and learnt whilst the harder parts may need some attention from the coach. As we moved toward the end of the session I could also see that some of the athletes were close to moving from the cognitive stage to the associative phase. It is important to understand the athletes stage of skill learning as the development of the training sessions should reflect this. Their stage of skill learning also impacts the athletes ability to process information, serial processing (the act of processing one item at a time).

I chose to use the direct instruction approach as I wanted to have a clear focus and structured learning activities. My planning and knowledge of effective coaching helped me do this. Session effectiveness should be determined before it begins, good planning tends to reflect a smooth efficient flow which ultimately provides better quality learning and use of time. To plan my session, I used Rink (1988) simple skill development template, a series of episodes with transitions in between. It enabled me to think carefully about the progressive episodic nature of the session and increase the complexity of the activities and skills according to the level of the athletes. Correspondingly considering Siedentop, Mand and Taggart’s (1986) effective teaching strategies, adapted for coaching we then also begin increase the effectiveness of athlete learning.

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For example, the transitions between stages/tasks are all under 3 minuets which helps provide session smoothness and momentum. It also ensures that a high percentage of training time is devoted to meaningful practice as we are only transitioning for a few minutes. My activities in the refining, extending and applying stages all minimal to no wait time. This means that athletes are keep on task as they are always involved in the activity. At the end of the session in the summary/close we ask the athletes what the key learning points are and an exit ticket. An exit ticket Is when individual athletes have to demonstrate or articulate set criteria which is related to the key learning point. My exit ticket was they had to demonstrate the correct the technique for passing a rugby ball accurately to one of the coaches on each hand in order to leave the session. This keeps the athletes accountable for their learning.

In terms of planning, I set a learning intention to help me set out a goal of what I want students to understand and be able to do at the end of the session as a result of the learning and teaching. A learning intention must specify the learner, the behaviour, the conditions and the criteria. My learning intention for the session was: students will demonstrate the correct technique for passing a rugby ball accurately to team mates in a modified touch rugby game. The learner – students, the behaviour – passing a rugby ball, the conditions – in a modified game of touch and the criteria – accurately to team mates. 

In conclusion an instructional model for physical education and sports coaching that is direct instruction encompasses many concepts, strategies and theory’s that are all interrelated. I have chosen to use direct instruction throughout my session combining with concepts and theories from knowledgeable researches and philosophers to provide my athletes with a smooth, effective and fun session.

Reference List

  • Barker, M. (2008) How people learn? Understanding the learning process (3rd ed.).
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • C. McGee & D. Fraser (eds) The professional practice of teaching. Cengage Learning ltd.
  • Direct Instruction. (2016, May 26). Retrieved March 8, 2019, from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Direct_instruction&action=history
  • Rink, J. E. (2010) Teaching physical education for learning (pp. 82-106). NY.: McGraw Hill.
  • Rink, J. E. (2010) Teaching physical education for learning (Chapter 5; pp. 82-106). New York: McGraw-Hill. 
  • Robinson, P. (2010). Foundations of Sports Coaching.(Part 3, p. 73 – 100). New York: Routledge.  
  • Shea, J. B., & Morgan, R. L. (1979). Contextual interference effects on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of a motor skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 5(2), 179-187.
  • Siedentop, D., Mand, C., & Taggart, A. (1986) Physical education: Teaching and curriculum strategies for grades 5- 12, (p 373-396). Palo Alto, Calif.: Mayfield Publishing Company. 
  • Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York : Appleton-Century-Crofts.


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