Teaching Methods

This section looks at the different methods used in teaching and varying ways of practicing a new skill (Equivalent to UK A Level Physical Education)

Teaching Methods

During lessons and training sessions, the teacher or coach must provide guidance to the athletes to ensure they learn effectively. To do this the demonstration and practice of the new skill will be manipulated by the coach to best suit the individual, skill and situation.

There are four parts to teaching a new skill:

  1. Instructing - instructions must be given for them to complete the task or skill. These may be written or verbal. The teacher must ensure the student knows what is required of them
  2. Demonstrating - The teacher may provide a demonstration of the skill or may get a peer to perform it. It is key that this is a good demonstration to allow the student to form a model in their memory and mentally rehearse the skill to be performed
  3. Applying - The student then practises the skill in a planned situation to help them transfer the learning from practise to a competitive situation
  4. Confirming - This is all about feedback and providing information for the student about how successful they have been. Testing or assessing the skill allows the teacher and the student to evaluate performance.

Types of Practice

There are four types of practice which can all be used in different situations and dependant on the skill being learned:

  1. Fixed practice - These are sometimes also known as drills and involves repeatedly practising a whole skill in order to strengthen the motor programme. This type of practice is best with discrete, closed skills
  2. Massed practice - This is a continuous form of practice which is best for simple skills. An example would be a rally in badminton where the learner must repeatedly perform drop shots. This causes fatigue and therefore simulates the late stages of a game
  3. Variable practice - This is used best for open skills and involves repeating a skill in varying situations. For example shooting practice in football, where the coach may set up drills and alter the starting position and involvement of defenders. This helps to build up schema to use in game situations
  4. Distributed practice - Attempts at the skill are divided up with intervals inbetween to allow for rest and mental rehearsal. This is best used in difficult, dangerous or fatiguing skills and with young or lowly motivated individuals

Methods of Practice

Certain skills are best taught in different ways depending on the learner and the skill in question:

Whole method

The skill is first demonstrated and then practised as a whole, from start to finish. It helps the learner to get a feel for the skill, timings and end product. It is best used for fast skills which cannot easily be separated into sub-parts, such as a javelin throw. It is unsuitable for people with low attention spans, complex or dangerous skills.

Part method

The parts of the skill are practised in isolation which is useful for complicated and serial skills and is good for maintaining motivation and focusing on specific elements of the skill. It is possible, however, that the transfer of the skills from parts, to a whole may not be effective and it may also reduce the kinaesthetic awareness (feel) for the full skill.

Whole-part-whole method

The whole skill is first demonstrated and practised, before being broken down into the constituent parts to practice the individual elements and improve on these, before putting the whole skill back together. This can be very effective in skills which have easily distinguished parts, where the whole skill together is complex. A good example comes in swimming, where the learner would practice the whole stroke, then isolate a weak component, such as the kick and use a float in the hands to ensure using only the legs, before putting the whole stroke back together. This gives the performer a sense of the whole skill before they break it down and improve on the weak aspects of the performance. As with the part method this may affect the transfer of the skill from parts to the whole.

Progressive part method

This is sometimes also known as the chaining method, as the parts of a skill are practised individually, in order, before being linked together and expanded. For example in the triple jump, the hop will be practised and learnt, before the skip is then practised and learnt. The two are then linked together. Finally the jump will be learnt individually and then tagged on the end of the skip. This is slow process but allows weaknesses to be targeted and for the performer to understand the relationship of the sub-routines.


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