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Teaching Methods

As a coach, you will be required to facilitate the learning of new technical skills by your athletes. To achieve this you will need to develop your knowledge of the learning process and the various teaching methods.

Pedagogy and Andragogy

Pedagogy and Andragogy are used to describe the art and science of teaching. Teachers who take on a facilitating role by directing the students in the learning process (e.g. adult and further education) are considered to be andragogy (student centred) and teachers who lecture to their students (e.g. child education in schools) are considered to be pedagogy (teacher centred).

Applied to Coaching

In the pedagogic model, the coach assume responsibility for making decisions about what will be learned, how it will be learned, and when it will be learned. The coach directs the learning. In the andragogy model the coach assists the athlete to learn (facilitator). The athlete directs the learning.

Simple and Complex Skills

Simple and complex are terms used to describe a skill. Simple skills are ones that an athlete finds easy to perform whereas complex skills are ones that the athlete finds more difficult. Remember, what is a simple skill to one athlete may be complex to another so as a coach you need to determine how each athlete perceives the skill.

Whole Practice

Ideally, a skill should be taught as a whole as the athlete can appreciate the complete movement and execution of a skill. The whole method of instruction can sometimes mean the athlete having to handle complex movements e.g. the whole high jump technique.

Part Instruction

When a skill is complex or there is considered an element of danger for the athlete then it is more appropriate to breakdown the complex movement into its constituent parts. The parts can then be taught and then linked together to develop the final skill. When part instruction is used it is important that the athlete is demonstrated the whole skill so that they can appreciate the product and understand how the set of parts will develop the skill.

Whole - Part - Whole Instruction

Initially the athlete attempts the whole skill and the coach monitors to identify those parts of the skill that the athlete is not executing correctly. Part instruction can then be used to address the limitations and then the athlete can repeat the whole skill with the coach monitoring for any further limitations.

No one method is suitable to all occasions, but studies have shown that:

  • simple skills (and perhaps simple is relative to each individual) benefit from the whole method
  • skills of intermediate difficulty benefit from the part method
  • closed skills are often taught with part instruction
  • difficult skills are best dealt with by oscillating between part and whole

Shaping

Shaping is suitable for complex actions with simultaneous elements e.g. hurdling. Hurdling is frequently seen as a complex skill by beginners because of the event rules and their concern about hitting the hurdles. A possible sequence to shape the hurdling skill over a number of training sessions is as follows:

  • athlete to run over 5 to 10 cones adjusted to allow the athlete to take 3 strides between each cone - develop running rhythm between the hurdles
  • replace the cones with low obstacles, e.g. six inch high hurdles or lower, that offer no resistance if hit
  • use hurdles set at the lowest height with no toppling weight
  • gradually adjust the hurdle height and spacing to competition requirements for the athlete's age group

Chaining

Breaking an action down into parts is refereed to as chaining and is only suitable for complex actions with sequential parts e.g. triple jump. A possible sequence to chain the hop, step and jump phases of triple jump is as follows:

  • demonstrate the whole action
  • demonstrate the hop phase and let them practice
  • demonstrate the hop and step phases and let them practice
  • demonstrate the hop, step and jump phases and let them practice

An Eastern European Approach

Consideration must be given to the approach adopted by the former Eastern Bloc countries to technique training. The aim is to identify the most fundamental version of a technique, one that is basic and essential to more advanced techniques. Example for the shot - basic model would be the stand and throw, more advanced would be the step and throw and finally followed by the rotation method.

Types of Practice

There are four types of practice:

  • Variable - the skill is practiced in the range of situations that could be experienced - Open skills are best practiced in this way
  • Fixed - a specific movement is practiced repeatedly, known as a drill - Closed skills are best practiced in this way
  • Massed - a skill is practiced without a break until the skill is developed. Suitable when the skill is simple, motivation is high, purpose is to practice a skill or the athletes are experienced
  • Distributed - breaks are taken whilst developing the skill. Suitable when the skill is new or complex, fatigue could result in injury or motivation is low.

Distributed practice is considered the most effective.

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2000) Teaching Methods [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/teaching.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: