‘Going through the Gears‘ is a shared mental model that can help pupils to make decisions, communicate those decisions with each other, then reflect on the effectiveness of those decisions. The idea is that team (and individuals) performance improves if team members have a shared understanding of the task that is to be performed and of the involved teamwork required to be successful. It is a representation of the two key principles of batting in cricket at a simple level; stay in and get runs.
This continues to build on the work we did last year to move our cricket teaching from solely isolated technical practice to the game being the central aspect of the learning environment through a Game Sense Approach. Richard Light in his book Game Sense proposes four core pedagogical features of a games sense approach:
- designing the learning environment which emphasises engagement
- use questioning to generate dialogue and thinking, rather than telling what to do
- provide opportunities for the collaborative formulation of solutions to problems, that are then tested and evaluated
- provide a supportive socio-moral culture environment, that allows participants to take risks and learn from mistakes
The core feature that I struggle with the most is the designing of games. Games Sense is based on a holistic and ecological view of learning with a focus on the game itself, rather than distinct components of it such as physical fitness, technique or tactics. Getting this right is of pivotal importance. Designing the game to align with the desired learning intentions and the abilities of the pupils is the most difficult step but without a doubt the most important step. Therefore small sided designer games which focus on what to do and how to do it are essential. Intentionally shaping the game can guide the pupils learning through play. If success is high then the game can be made more variable, if the success is low then the complexity can be reduced. Below are some examples of designer games linked to the principles of batting and the shared mental of Going through the Gears.
Once the games are designed the next core feature I struggle with is stepping back and letting the pupils try and find solutions to the problems the game is asking. Again Richard Light offers a practical method of going about this which I have used and found to be helpful:
1. Explain the game (preferably with a demonstration).
2. Let them play (for an extended period of time without interruption).
3. Stop them and then ask open-ended questions that help identify potential solutions to the problems being faced.
4. Give time to formulate an action plan as a group (get them to verbalise this explicitly).
5. Let the group implement their action plan within a game.
6. Allow time to critically reflect on the success of the action plan (through group processing) and then suggest further refinements.
7. Support the playing of the game (with purposeful practice and purposeful preparation if and when needed).
The game is no longer an appendage to the learning process. The game, with its tactics, decisions, judgements and skills, becomes the central aspect of the learning environment when teaching sport within PE. Not only does it promote higher levels of motivation and engagement, but also understanding through guided play, problem-solving, questioning, positive social interactions and a series of sequential modifications that build towards the adult game.
Going through the Gears – Shared Mental Model
Gear 1 – Consolidate (Stay in) – Tendulkar Ball
Gear 2 – Comfort zone (attack the bad ball) – V Cricket
Gear 3 – Hit the Gaps (Exploit the field) – Jail Break
Gear 4 – Dominate the game (score off 4 balls an over) – 4 Ball
Gear 5 – Hit the ropes (attack the bowling) – Go hard