Effects of teaching games for understanding on tactical knowledge development in middle school physical education

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© JPES. In contrast to the traditional direct instruction pedagogical model, the teaching games for understanding (TGfU) model emphasizes the development of cognitive factors (i.e. tactical knowledge and decision-making) in the development of sport expertise. However, despite some TGfU-focused investigations demonstrating some positive learning outcomes for students, especially in terms of developing their tactical knowledge, more empirical support for TGfU is warranted. Consequently, the purpose of the study was to examine the effects of a TGfU soccerunit on the tactical knowledge developmentof middle school physical education (PE) students. Participants were 12 sixth grade students (n = 6 female) selected from four middle school PE classeswho participated in a TGfU soccer unit taught by the lead authorand teacher fidelity was established.A pre-test/middle-test/post-test quasi-experimental design was employed. A verbal protocol analysis (VPA) technique was applied to assess potential developments in students’ tactical knowledge across the duration of the unit and was undertaken by participants acting like an ESPN sports announcer, providing live in-situ commentary on the activities of one player as they participated in the game. The interview commentaries were transcribed and coded using established protocolsat three levels of analysis: conceptual content, conceptual sophistication, and conceptual structure. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was applied to contrast the differences between the measurements conducted (pre-mid-post). Findings confirmed the effectiveness of the TGfU unit in developing adaptations to long-term memory that improved the quality of the students’ tactical knowledge at all three levels of analysis (conceptualcontent, sophistication, and structure). Given our results, we emphasize the need to use pedagogical models such as TGfU to increase students’ capacity to evaluate game situations and develop their tactical reasoning.