Considering game-based teaching/coaching as a cluster of teaching styles

This blog is developed from the paper

Reconciling Approaches – A Game Centred Approach to Sport Teaching and Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles.
The paper is available at

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s game-based approaches to sport teaching and coaching emerged in scholarly literature on sport and physical education teaching. Game based pedagogical approaches (GBAs) for games and sport teaching have been distinguished by some authors through the more prominent emphasis on guided discovery teaching and student/athlete reflective thinking than what occurs in the more historically common sport-as-sport techniques approach typified by a demonstration-replication, or ‘transmission’, method of instruction. However, if we examine GBAs  as learning episodes we see the approach distinguished by the identification of decisions being made between the teacher/coach and learners.

There are many derivatives which fall under the banner of a game-based approach. In addition to the Game Sense Approach (Australian Sports Commission, 1996), Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) (Bunker & Thorpe, 1982), a Tactical Games Model (TGM) (Griffin, Oslin & Mitchell, 1997), Tactical-Decision Learning Model (TDLM) (Grehaigne, Wallian & Godbout, 2005), Play with Purpose (Pill, 2007), and the Games Concept Approach (Wright, Fry, McNeill, Tan, Tan & Schemp (2001) are some of the approaches. Light (2013) suggested a loose framework of four pedagogical principles identifies GBAs. These pedagogical features are: 1. deliberate design of the game as a physical learning environment; 2. emphasising questioning to promote inquiry and interaction; 3. promoting inquiry through problem solving; and, 4. a supportive environment. It is the second of Light’s four pedagogical principals that we argue distinguishes GBAs because the use of small-sided and modified games was an accepted pedagogy for games teaching prior to the explanation of GBAs, and also because teachers do not see small-sided and modified games in GBAs as necessarily different to what they already do (Pill, 2011).

The emphasis of GBAs on teacher implementation of problem solving, reflection and inquiry processes has been described as a guided discovery (Breed & Spittle, 2011; Hopper & Kruisselbrink, 2001; Light, 2014; Pill, 2006). The term ‘guided discovery’ is also described by Style F of Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). Generally, descriptions of the GBAs as guided discovery do not specifically stipulate that the discovery of new knowledge must occur, rather they emphasise that the instructional strategy of questioning is central to stimulate thinking or intellectual engagement (Light, 2013) about the game instead of using didactic teaching approaches (Pill, 2013).

Guided Discovery, or Style F, has been defined in The Spectrum as “the logical and sequential design of questions that lead a person to discover a predetermined response” (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002, p. 212). Some of the key features of Guided Discovery – Style F are that it is best done one on one as if other learners hear or see a response they can no longer discover and become receivers of the information (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008) or imitators (Metzler, 2011) and the discovery process is aborted. When this happens, or the target concept is known by the learner, “the objectives of this behavior are nullified and the question and answer experience reverts to a design variation of the Practice style (a review)” (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008).

The Spectrum provides a framework with a very precise set of descriptions to allow “a common perspective, a number of undergirding concepts, and a functional language we can all use” (Goldberger, Ashworth & Byra, 2012, p. 269). This common language allows teaching approaches to be examined to see if they are doing what they claim they are doing. If a teaching approach claims that it is teaching discovery The Spectrum allows this to be examined and confirmed or denied. We are not arguing that the GSA or any other game-based approach is likely to be one teaching style more than the other. We are concluding that through the lens of the Spectrum of Teaching Styles there are the places other than Guided Discovery where GBA episodes could be placed when an analysis of the scenario is made in terms of the decisions being made by the teacher/coach and learners.Many examples in the literature of GBA teaching episodes when viewed through the lens of the Spectrum of Teaching Styles are mostly Practice Style – Style B, and depending on the learners previous experience when they participate in the session, Guided Discovery Style – Style F or Convergent Discovery Style – Style H. Whether the central pedagogy used by the teacher/coach is inquiry orientated consistent with the emphasis of a GBA is not as relevant as the impact of the pedagogical action on learning. The Spectrum is based on the central premise that teaching is a chain of decision making and that every deliberate act of teaching (including not making a decision) is a result of a pedagogical decision making. The deliberate choice of an instruction style needs to consider the pre-impact, impact during delivery and post-impact effects by establishing by who they were made, what they were made about and when they were made - it is then possible to establish which teaching  styles is being used. 

Returning to the earlier example, if the teacher/coach using a GBA asks a question to a group of players an inquiry learning environment may be in operation, however, if a player answers the question and other players hear or see the response they can no longer discover the idea for themselves and become receivers of the information or imitators of the idea. The discovery process is aborted as the coach/teacher target concept has become known by the learner.


  1. Makes sense. Been a while since I looked at these styles in Mosston and I agree when dealing with style F which has a particular response in mind. But you didn't mention the divergent discovery style (Style H) which is about innovation, design, verification and assessment of different solutions/movements. I am wondering why it isn't included here as part of GBA and if it is able to sustain inquiry beyond a publicly given response. Particularly if there are multiple possible solutions. Granted for highly structured games like American football there might not be a lot of room for divergence, but more open ended games there could be more innovative or at least different solutions. I frequently recall using the phrase 'it depends' as an out of my depth soccer coach.

    Convergent styles assume one right answer but in many games, at least for the novice, there are often more than one answer that can be tested through inquiry. In the divergent style, Mosston I think talks about brainstorming possibilities, then reducing these to work out what are feasible, and then reducing these further to determine what are desireable. These I guess at any stage could be tested in practice as part of inquiry. So long as the coach/teacher makes it clear they are not looking for one right answer and that at least initially all possibilities are on the table. I am probably way off the mark here, interested in your thoughts.



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