Teaching Physical Education Deliberately- A Spectrum of Teaching Styles

In 2009 I was attending the ACHPER Biennial International Conference in Brisbane and one of the keynote speakers was Sarah Ashworth. Sarah presented on the Spectrum of Teaching Styles, a concept I hadn't heard of before this talk. I had been presenting workshops on the game-based Australian 'tactical' coaching approach known as Game Sense for about ten years by this time, and discussing how the approach was 'game-based' but not 'game-only'. The Spectrum of Teaching Styles helped me understand why I had never interpreted the Game Sense approach as only learning through and from games. These thoughts are more fully explored in the paper Reconciling Approaches and in a previous blog Considering game Based Teaching as a Cluster of Styles

In this blog, I go back to the beginning and review the original Spectrum of Styles in Mosston's 1966 book, Teaching Physical Education.

Teaching Physical Education is a road towards the enhancement of self concept
The Spectrum of Teaching Styles is both a philosophy and a model. It is a philosophy of deliberate teaching.  As a model, it outlines an evolutionary process leading toward ever increasing student independent learning. Mosston connects with the work of Bruner, Bloom and others to locate the Spectrum of Styles in concerns with the structure of learning, subject matter and teaching. "Teaching in all communities is deliberate" (1966, p. 4).

The Spectrum of Styles Premise
Each style has an operational structure which Mosston described as the 'anatomy of the style'. The anatomy explains the behavioural role of the teacher and its influence on student behaviour. In effect, the Spectrum of Teaching positions the teacher as a deliberate designer of educational spaces, possible as the teacher understands how the decisions the teacher makes influence the behaviour of the student.

Mosston suggested 5 decisions made by the deliberate teacher before they go into class:
1. The selection of subject matter;
2. The quantity of an activity;
3. The quality of the performance;
4. The degree of teacher involvement; and
5. The degree of student involvement

Mosston suggested 5 decisions made by the deliberate teacher in executing a lesson. When in class, the teacher makes decisions about:
1. Organisation;
2. Starting times of activities;
3. Duration of activities;
4. Pace and rhythm of activities;
5. When to stop an activity.

Mosston suggested 5 decisions made by the deliberate teacher after a lesson:
1. Ongoing evaluation of the student;
2. Evaluation of tests of the student;
3. Evaluate the student against group norms (today we might call these standards, competencies, or outcomes)
4. Evaluate the student against the individuals growth and improvement; and
5. Evaluate the class in relation to itself, other classes, or 'state norms'.

Mosston suggested the purpose of this decision making by the teacher is to be able to maximise individual students opportunities to learn by the teacher being better able to encourage the students concept of self, with the main purpose being to encourage the student towards becoming a 'fully functioning person'.

The Styles
It is important to note, Mosston does not present any style as good v bad, and as all styles having their place in what we might now call 'quality' PE. The pedagogical maturity of the PE teacher is understanding how to use each style to attain a learning effect - in essence knowing the teaching style that best works to achieve the task outcome/s the teacher envisages. Moving from Command to Creativity involves the progressive removal of elements from the Teaching by Command style. This is shown in the sequence of the styles
Teaching by Command
The purpose of the command style is to get a response: fifty pushes, 3 laps of the oval, spend 15 minutes practising lay-ups. When the 'command' is given, it is assumed a desired response occurs. In this style, all decisions are made by the teacher, and the role of the student is to respond and the closer the students response in both time and accuracy to the teachers stimuli the more 'perfect' the lesson. It is still assumed that the student is a 'thinking' participant in PE, as acceptance and performance of what the teacher requests requires some cognition - understanding - of what the teacher wants. However, in this style of teaching, the teacher is the only one making any decisions and the learning 'of what' is prescribed.
In this style of teaching, Mosston suggested demonstrations are very important as they show what is accepted and therefore, what is not accepted. What this often looks like in a PE class is Demonstrate - Explanation - Execution - Evaluation (1966, p. 27) (this is similar to Tinning's (2010) description of the common PE method as demonstrate-explain-perform).
In this style, the role of the student is "listen, obey and execute" (1966, p. 29).
Teaching by Task
Teaching by task sees one of the elements of teaching by command removed. In this style, once a task has been demonstrated and explained it assumes the students are independent enough to start the movement or activity, perform it for a number of times or a period, and stop, on their own - without teacher stimulus. Teaching by task is a concept "avoiding one standard for all" (1996, p. 61). Both quantitative and qualitative differentiation is expected when teaching by task as the 'execution variable' is transferred to the student/s.
Reciprocal Teaching (Peer Teaching)
Reciprocal teaching transfers 'the evaluation variable' to the student/s as it involves the teacher entrusting partner observation of performance, and then the partner provision of information about the performance of the task. The partner is placed "in the role of an observer, corrector, and a reinforcer" (Mosston, 1966, p. 72). When successfully implemented, Mosston suggested a byproduct of this style is to "enhance the social climate in the class by creating this situation where one is actually dependent on the help from a peer. One learns how to receive criticism and evaluation from a peer" (1966, p. 90).
Small Group Teaching
Mosston explained that this style requires more than simply placing students into groups, "it calls for a specific designation of the role of each member in the group" (1966, p. 93). The progression from reciprocal teaching is the additional roles. Mosston suggested that at a minimum, groups involve a 'doer', an observer, and a recorder, with role responsibilities regularly rotated between group members.
No doubt, some will see parallels between reciprocal teaching and small group teaching with what some now call cooperative learning styles/models.
Teaching by Individual Programming
Individual programming is when each student independently makes the decisions concerning the variables when, where, how much, how well. Decisions concerning 'what' will be learnt are still determined by the teacher. Individual programs still contain a specific purpose and specific subject matter determined by the teacher, however, the student has self-responsibility for carrying out a program of tasks. Therefore, within a class where individual programming occurs there is a high degree of variability of progress and visibility of progress. It is still most important that the teacher provides clear and specific information about the 'final target', or what we might now call the 'success criteria'.
Teaching by Guided Discovery
In previous styles, Mosston suggested that the "intellectual activity" of the student in PE was "limited" - "The learner has been in a condition of cognitive acquiescence" (1966, p. 144).  Teaching by Guided Discovery aims to place the student in cognitive dissonance - a disturbance or irritation deliberately created  to prompt the student/s to seek a solution to remove the disturbance. Mosston proposed:Cognitive Dissonance leads to Inquiry leads to Discovery
The most significant direction to the teacher in using this style is never tell the answer. The linguistic behaviour of the teacher using Guided Discover is questioning. However, the questions are designed to produce particular responses - to channel to a specific purpose. Determining the sequence of questions is central to successful use of this style of teaching. The questioning is not ad hock but a determined sequence of steps progressing from the general to the specific. The dependency of the student's expected responses rests upon the teachers design of the questions.
Teaching by Problem Solving
In teaching by problem solving, the student/s expectation is to seek out answers on their own. The problem and task design is still controlled by the teacher. The teacher introduces the problem and the student/s receive the problem. While guided discovery hones in towards specific answers or solutions, Mosston presented teaching by problem solving as encouraging the ability to find alternatives, explore alternatives, and then determine appropriate solutions/answers.There is more choice in teaching by problem solving than there is in teaching by guided discovery as alternative solutions are entertained by the teacher.
Teaching for Creativity
Teaching for creativity is distinguished by the student asking the questions, identifying the problem, and identifying the relevant subject matter. In this first book on a Spectrum of Styles, Mosston present teaching for creativity as a type of 'frontier', a possibility. In later editions of Teaching Physical Education, this style emerged as Divergent Discovery, but in 1996, a style is suggested but not described and illustrated with specific examples as the other styles are.

Mosston's Spectrum of Teaching Styles has been the most enduring 'model' for teaching PE, however, the Spectrum of Styles was not part of my pre-service teaching learning about how to teach PE. I was twenty-one years into my career as a teacher before I encountered the concept. I wish I had known about it earlier. I find it a really clear explanation for deliberate and explicit teaching. I am attracted to the description of styles in the 1966 edition more so than recent editions except for the descriptions of convergent and divergent discovery styles in later editions of the book.
The Spectrum of Styles and the later idea of a canopy of teaching styles explains why it is difficult to compare 'models' as 'quality' PE is a blend of styles. Pedagogical emphasis might shift depending on the intention to educate in, through or about movement and depending on the 'everyday philosophy' (Green, 2000) of the PE Teacher - however, every style has a place in the PE teachers 'toolkit'.

Anyone interested in the Spectrum of Styles can find the most recent version of the book available as an e-book from The Spectrum of Styles website which also has a wonderful collection of research papers on the 'The Spectrum'.


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