A question that is often asked amongst physical educators is “what is the correct methodology or process to adopt to ensure that maximum learning occurs”. Bunker and Thorpe (1982) through their proposal of a games-orientated approach afforded a refreshing alternative to the somewhat more traditional strategies that placed emphasis on the development of technique and isolated skill drills (which dominated previous pedagogy). More often than not, a substantial portion of these highly structured technique-driven lessons were dedicated to skill mastery at the expense of actually playing the games themselves. This lack of gameplay often leads to a failure or breakdown in these practiced techniques during “real” game situations.
The “Teaching Games for Understanding Approach” on the other hand is underpinned by the desire to increase the students´ abilities to effectively play games, and as such, relies heavily on an instructional learning perspective. This contextual approach to learning helps in the promotion of the holistic development of the child, i.e. social development, strategic-thinking, cultural understanding, problem solving and of course physical literacy, and therefore is arguably more complete and relevant.
So what actually are the fundamentals of this approach? Teaching Games for Understanding is the use of modified games that correspond to the developmental phases of the learners. The lessons do not follow a rigid structure. They are facilitated through game play whereby modifications are made to various aspects of the games, including the rules, playing area or equipment. Technique development is not forgotten about. However, specific training for various skills are only introduced when an appropriate level of learning is acquired. This ensures that meaningful development and learning occurs in a much more enjoyable environment for the students themselves, which is the most important thing!
Coordinator of Physical Education