A History and Development of the Tactical Games Model

A History and Development of the Tactical Games Model

The tactical games model employed in the CHAMPIONS program is rooted in curriculum theory dating back to 1982. Bunker and Thorpe (1982), on the faculty at Loughborough University in England, introduced their undergraduates and local physical educators to a new way of looking at teaching games. Unhappy with current methods of teaching games that focused on skill acquisition, the pair shifted the focus on games teaching to tactical decisions made during gameplay, in an effort to produce “skillful games players” who understood and appreciated games as problem solving events. Bunker and Thorpe’s dissatisfaction with current games teaching became known as “the gap” that existed between skill development and gameplay, which allowed experienced players to flourish and dominate gameplay and left the uninitiated confused and unmotivated during gameplay.

Bunker and Thorpe were influenced by Worthington and Wigmore who challenged them early on to consider the benefits of small sided games (Thorpe & Bunker, 1986), and by Ellis (1986) who introduced a method of breaking down games into their component parts in order to teach, modify, and understand them. Almond joined the pair as a curriculum specialists and the trio began to see their ideas as a “major curriculum development” (Griffin & Butler, 2005). Almond, Bunker, and Thorpe were also “strongly influenced by educational gymnastics” (ibid.) and its problem solving approach.

Almond, Bunker & Thorpe provided the physical education profession with a model of seeing games as a problem-solving venture that would be taught from a student perspective through a sequence of small-sided games. Griffin, Mitchell, & Oslin (1995) re-conceptualized what became known as the Teaching Games for Understanding model for American physical educators, and added a thematic approach that moves away from teaching/learning discreet games (volleyball, softball, football) towards units centered around types of decisions made during gameplay.

The current Teaching Games for Understanding model can be seen as an application of constructivist learning in physical education (Kirk & McDonald, 1998) and more specifically as “situated learning” Dyson, Griffin,& Hastie, (2004). Learners increase their understanding of gameplay and become more skillful games players by investigating certain decisions that come up during gameplay situations, and constructing this new knowledge for themselves through gameplay. The physical educator plays an important role in the constructivist process by introducing the tactical theme, setting up a situation that inspires learners to explore the tactic through gameplay, and focusing players’ thought processes on the decisions they make during gameplay related to the tactical theme through the use of tactical cues, coaching during gameplay teaching tactics, and specific feedback statements. At the end of the lesson, the physical educator engages learners in reflection on the amount of success they achieved through their decision-making.

The games created for the CHAMPIONS curriculum follow the 4 pedagogical principles (sampling, representation, exaggeration, and tactical complexity) introduced by Thorpe and Bunker (1989). CHAMPIONS games provide a sampling of standardized sports, so that learners are able to transfer learning from one game to another. The use of modified lead-up games that are designed to focus on a particular gameplay tactic, provide representation of more complex sports and employ rules that exaggerate a situation requiring tactical decision-making.  A designed sequence of progressively complex lead-up games takes into consideration tactical complexity and assigns different lead-up games to the PreK, K-2, and 3-5 grade levels, so that players are working on developmentally appropriate tactical challenges.

The CHAMPIONS curriculum enables learners to become what Almond, Bunker, & Thorpe referred to as skillful games players who understand and appreciate games.

  • References
  • Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1982). A model for the teaching of games in the secondary school. Bulletin of Physical Education, 18 (1), 5-8.
  • Dyson, B., Griffin, L., & Hastie, P. (2004). Sport education, tactical games and cooperative learning: Theoretical and pedagogical considerations. Quest, 56 226-240.
  • Ellis, M. (1986). Making and shaping games. In R. Thorpe, D. Bunker & L. Almond (Eds.) Rethinking games teaching (pp. 61-65) Loughborough, England: University of Technology, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science.
  • Griffin, L., Mitchell, S., & Oslin, J. (1995). Teaching sports concepts and skills: A tactical games approach. Champaign, Ill. Human Kinetics.
  • Griffin, L., & Butler, J. (2005). Teaching games for understanding: Theory, research and practice. (Eds.) Champaign, Ill. Human Kinetics.
  • Kirk, D., & McDonald, D. (1998). Situated learning in physical education. Journal of Teaching In Physical Education. 17, 376-387.
  • Thorpe, R., & Bunker, D. (1986). A changing focus in games teaching. In L. Almond (Ed.), The place of physical education in schools (pp.42-71). London: Kogan Page.