Group Work in Physical Education: Exploring the Interconnectedness of Theoretical Approaches and Practice

in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education
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  • 1 University of Gothenburg
  • | 2 University of Wyoming
  • | 3 Auburn University
  • | 4 University of Birmingham
  • | 5 University of Toulouse
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Student group work is a central feature of many contemporary pedagogical approaches to teaching physical education. Despite this proliferation, our understanding of the teaching-learning dynamics inherent in group work remains limited and has tended to be under-theorized. The purpose of this paper was to examine different theoretical approaches to group work to identify similarities and differences and consequently provide insights and recommendations into ways of using group work as a pedagogical strategy. Four theoretical approaches to group work models were described in detail with brief empirical examples used to illustrate aspects to which each approach draws attention. The examination demonstrates conceptual overlap, elaboration and distinctions between the theoretical approaches related to: (i) content knowledge; (ii) engaging learners; (iii) the teacher’s role; and (iv) group composition. Meta-theoretical discussions of teaching strategies such as group work generate important discourse on the potential for the development of effective pedagogical practice.

Barker is with the Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden. Wallhead is with the Division of Kinesiology and Health, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. Brock is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL. Goodyear is with the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK. Amade-Escot is with the University of Toulouse, Toulouse, France.

Address author correspondence to Dean Barker at