Background: The move for educational reform to improve student outcomes and
learning has been the subject of ongoing debate over the last 15 years in Australia
and internationally. In Australia, Game Centred Approaches (GCA) such as Game
Sense have been positioned by advocates as having the capacity to achieve these
characteristics in physical education. However, despite some 15 years of exposure to,
and professional development in, GCA in Australia, there has been very little change
in teaching practices in games and sports.
Purpose: The paper will focus on physical education teacher education (PETE)
undergraduates’ attitudes to games and sports and analyse key issues related to their
understandings relating to the use of a GCA.
Participants: The participants were second and third year PETE undergraduates during
their practical studies courses in Games and Sports.
Data collection: Data was collected from PETE undergraduates over a three-year period.
The exchanges used in this paper were from recordings of consultations, interactions in
tutorials and in assessment presentations. They were supported by the first author’s own
observations on students’ understandings of the GCA during and following tutorials.
Intervention: PETE students were involved in four practical studies courses in games
and sports with the first author using a GCA approach. Required readings and journal
articles on GCA were used to support course content.
Research design: To understand the students’ understandings of games and sports using
a GCA and the qualitative nature of inquiry, an ethnomethodological approach was used.
Data analysis: The analysis of the data based on Lemke’s theory of social semiotics was
conducted to develop an understanding of what using a GCA meant to the students in
action (the events in which the meanings are used) and in context (how the meaning
is demonstrated when connected to an event).
Findings: The findings of this paper were threefold. Firstly, the influence of traditional
approaches to games and sports in the physical education and sporting backgrounds of
the PETE students is a very powerful force in determining how games and sports should
be taught and understood. Secondly, the students’ capacity to productively and
consistently use a GCA to create these learning environments is contingent on the
depth of their content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. Thirdly, there is a
considerable emotional cost to the students when challenging their embodied
investments in a traditional sports model.
Conclusion: Understanding and developing sustainability to use a GCA requires more
than simply exposing students to the approach. If GCAs are to be used appropriately
to enhance the quality of teaching and student learning and create the environments
advocates believe are possible, then how we teach PETE students to teach games and sports in our courses must be examined and we must ask ourselves this question in
relation to teaching using a GCA: How do we do what we do?