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Working with alternatives pedagogies that work

A month ago in my blog ‘are alternative pedagogies good foryour teaching’ I proposed a series on Models-Based practice or MBP. Howeversince then I have been unable to convince my guest bloggers to blog and my timehas been caught up in matters of work. I thought before tackling this series thatI would remind my readers what MBP was. What follows is a hybrid summary writtenby David Kirk and me for a paper we are writing on MBP. Questions and commentsat the bottom please.

In a recent exposition Kirk (2010) examinedthe critical, yet unrealised, importance of research in affecting practice andpolicy in physical education. Despite the warning that half all publishedresearch is only read by the author(s) Kirk argued that models-based practice(MBP) (as a derivative of Metzler’s (2005) instructional models) was astrategic approach to physical education that sought to align  curriculum knowledge, teaching strategy andlearning outcomes.

In his book InstructionalModels for Physical Education, Metzler (2005) claimed that content isusually practitioners’ first concern when thinking about teaching. Furthermore,the teaching of physical education mainstays such as games remains relativelyunchanged across the grade levels and experience of students; with the gameitself being broken down into the same components and tasks follow the same orsimilar sequences. This method of instruction matches the exasperated claim bySiedentop (2002) that physical educationalist persistently teach the sameintroductory units of work regardless of the age and past experiences of thestudents. Consequently, content is very much the organising centre for physical education teaching. As analternative Metzler urged teachers to considering instructional models as abetter organising centre. Indeed, the call “there is no one best way to teachphysical education” has been widely propounded yet nonetheless content-basedpedagogies continue to dominate in the gymnasium.

In arguing against the near-identical practices of teachersMetzler posited that physical education, with its broad-ranging and diversecontent, presents complex challenges. This complexity suggests there is a needfor multiple models of practice. He argues (2005, pp. 24-28) that by taking amodels-based approach, a number of benefits ensue. For example, programmeplanning and coherence can be improved, learning domain priorities (cognitive,physical, affective) can be more clearly identified, and an instructional themeidentified for each model. These benefits in turn assist the organization ofteacher and student outcomes from a unit of work and because outcomes areprimary considerations in planning permit the valid assessment and verificationof learning.

In defining separate instructional models  Metzler, highlighted two types 1) those whichalready exist in other fields and which have been adapted for physicaleducation (including Personalised System for Learning and CooperativeLearning), and 2) those developed specifically for physical education,(including Sport Education, Teaching Games for Understanding and Personal andSocial Responsibility). Metzler (2005) held that models such as Sport Educationand Teaching Games For Understanding had been architecturally designed toincorporate robust theory garnered through strong theoretically-informed practice(or praxis in the words of Habermas, 1973) that had been sharpened throughrigorously field-tested research in schools and other appropriateestablishments. Furthermore, he argued that this research knowledge wasaugmented by the combined craft knowledge about ‘what works’ accumulated fromthe innumerable teachers who had contributed to the field testing of thesemodels. The strong support for these models from research; there is in otherwords evidence of what works, something that is, according to Lawson (2009)desperately needed in physical education.

The apparent need for MBP originated from Metzler’s beliefthat the teaching of physical education was rooted in the past. This pastfocused on the attainment of content goals (i.e. gymnastics and sport-basedgoals) through a programmatic approach to teaching that covered a large breadthof activities in ‘pocket-sized’ experiences all delivered through a commonplacedirect and formal instructional approach. Similar arguments have been made bymany in physical education research and this paper lacks the room to adequatelysummaries the abundant research in this area (see Kirk 2010 for a up-to-dateexamination of these concerns). It is suffice to say that the“one-size-fits-all” pedagogy of physical education is based upon the use ofprescribed actions by the teacher to personally control the learningenvironment. Contrary to this subject-wide “way” of teaching (Casey, 2010)Metzler conceived that the field-tested praxis of MBP allowed teachers todevelop a flexible, multiple models approach to their teaching. His notion ofpedagogical change was founded on his belief that the unique blueprintsdeveloped by the architects of each model would allow teachers to buildapproaches to teaching that aligned subject matter and outcomes. FinallyMetzler believed that this degree of ‘preparation’ allowed teachers to safelyadopt the models in their classroom as being suitable ways of acting and thinkingabout teaching.


Casey, A. (2010). Practitioner research in physicaleducation: Teacher transformation through pedagogical and curricular change.Unpublished doctoral thesis, Leeds Metropolitan University. 

Habermas, J. (1973). Theoryand Practice. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kirk, D. (2010). Current status and future trends inresearch on physical education in Europe: Some critical issues for why researchmatters. Keynote address to the 5th International Congress andXXVI National Conference of the INEFC, University of Barcelona, 4-6 February2010.

Lawson, H.A. (2009). Paradigms, exemplars and social change.Sport, Education and Society, 14,77-100.

Metzler, M.W. (2005). Instructionalmodels for physical education. Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathway.

Siedentop, D. (2002). Content knowledge for physicaleducation. Journal of Teaching inPhysical Education, 21, 368-377.


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