A Bigger Picture: Aligning Game Sense with Curriculum Standards

Steve Mitchell

Since the beginnings of game-based approaches (GBAs), going back to Bunker and Thorpe’s (1982) original Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) model, the field of curriculum development has moved in the direction of elementary and secondary school physical education curricula that are Standards-based. The identification of academic content standards in several countries has resulted in the specification of learning outcomes in all domains of learning, meaning, of course, the psychomotor, cognitive and affective domains. In this chapter I review the content standards for physical education in several countries, where, in particular, GBAs are commonly used and suggest ways in which these approaches, particularly Game Sense, align with the standards in question. I also look at connections between Game Sense and the scope and sequence of the International Baccalaureate (IB), given the inquiry focus promoted in IB schools.

Content Standards in Australia

The Australian Health and Physical Education Curriculum (https://www. australiancurriculum.edu. au/f-10-curriculum/health-and-physical-education/) is organized into two content ‘strands’: Personal, social and community health, and movement and physical activity. Games content is to be found in the second of these strands, movement and physical activity, which itselfis divided into three ‘sub-strands’, namely:

  • 1 Moving our body
  • • Refining movement skills
  • • Developing movement concepts and strategies
  • 2 Understanding movement
  • • Fitness and physical activity
  • • Elements of movement
  • • Cultural significance of physical activity
  • 3 Learning through movement
  • • Teamwork and leadership
  • • Critical and creative thinking in movement
  • • Ethical behaviour in movement settings

Games and sports are identified as a required content area, focussing on the development of movement skills, concepts and strategies through a variety of games and sports. This content builds on learning in active play and minor games, and fundamental movement skills. The curriculum further classifies games and sports into the categories of invasion games, net and wall games, striking and fielding games and target games. It is expected that all students at appropriate intervals across the continuum of learning will participate in modified games, traditional games or sports, culturally significant games and sports (such as traditional Indigenous games and games of significance from the Asia region) and non-traditional games and sports (including student-designed games).

A Game Sense focus, through reference to games tactics, first appears in years three and four. Here the ‘Achievement Standard’ requires, among other health and physical education outcomes, that students ‘...refine fundamental movement skills and apply movement concepts and strategies in a variety of physical activities and to solve movement challenges’. This clearly implies a question-driven and problem-solving approach to teaching and learning, and this is further developed in years five and six where students are expected to ‘perform specialised movement skills and sequences and propose and combine movement concepts and strategies to achieve movement outcomes and solve movement challenges’. Similarly in years seven and eight, ‘students are expected to demonstrate control and accuracy when performing specialised movement sequences and skills... and... apply movement concepts and refine strategies to suit different movement situations’. Lastly, in years nine and ten, students are expected to ‘apply and transfer movement concepts and strategies to new and challenging movement situations...apply criteria to make judgements about and refine their own and others’ specialised movement skills and movement performances...and...work collaboratively to design and apply solutions to movement challenges’.

Though the Australian curriculum does not specify required content, this being the purview of the teacher, it does provide ‘elaborations’ within each substrand. For example, in the years seven and eight sub-strand of Moving Your Body, we see the following elaborations:

i Examining and demonstrating the similarities of strategies used in different physical activities and how they can be transferred to new movement situations

ii Exploring similarities in the bases of support and flow of movements when performing movement sequences

A Bigger Picture IIS

iii Selecting strategies that have been successful previously and applying the most appropriate ones when solving new movement challenges with and without equipment

Clearly the first and third of these elaborations align well with the tenets of a Game Sense approach to teaching and learning. Similarly, at the year five and six levels, we find an elaboration in the Moving Your Body sub-strand that anticipates students ‘demonstrating defensive and offensive play in modified games’. These elaborations, and others, indicate the value attached to teaching and learning for effective game performance within the Australian curriculum. This comes as no surprise given Australian physical education’s rich history with teaching and learning approaches, including not only Game Sense but also Play Practice (Launder, 2001).

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