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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

Heutagogic learning is characterized by the notion of human agency. Power and autonomy are placed firmly in the hands of the learner, who takes responsibility for, and control of, what they will learn, when it will be learnt and how it will be learnt. As a result, if sufficiently reflexive, heutagogic learners are said to acquire both competencies (knowledge and skills) and capabilities (the capacity to appropriately and effectively apply one’s competence in novel and unanticipated situations). The complex and dynamic environment of sports coaching, coupled with coaches’ apparent preference for informal self-directed learning methods (as opposed to more formalised educational settings), would therefore seem perfect for its application. In this insights paper, we aim to stimulate debate by providing a critical overview of the heutagogic method and consider it against the nature of coaching skill. In tandem, we identify some essential preconditions that coaches might need to develop before heutagogic approaches might be deployed effectively in coach education.

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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

Heutagogy is the focus on self-determined learning by the learner. In a recent Insights paper, Stoszkowski and Collins offered a critical overview of heutagogy, highlighting the potential advantages for coaching and coach education, as well as some concerns with its use. The aim of the present study was to offer insight into student-coaches’ experiences on a sports coaching bachelor degree module that was underpinned by a heutagogical approach to learning. Twenty-six student-coaches (6 females and 20 males) took part in semi-structured group interviews, 19 of whom had completed an end of module survey. Data were analyzed inductively and findings revealed that performance on, and perceptions of, the module showed the approach was differentially effective, with three higher order themes representing the student-coaches’ articulation of their experiences: (a) attitudinal disposition, (b) knowledge and experience, and (c) skill set. Although the findings of present study suggest heutagogy is a potentially useful method in coach education, we also highlight some potentially essential caveats to the use of the method.

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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

A reflective approach to practice is consistently espoused as a key tool for understanding and enhancing coach learning and raising the vocational standards of coaches. As such, there is a clear need for practical tools and processes that might facilitate the development and measurement of “appropriate” reflective skills. The aim of this preliminary study was to explore the use of online blogs as a tool to support refection and community of practice in a cohort of undergraduate sports coaching students. Twenty-six students (6 females, 20 males) reflected on their coaching practice via blogs created specifically for refection. Blogs were subjected to category and content analysis to identify the focus of entries and to determine both the emergent reflective quality of posts and the extent to which an online community of practice emerged. Findings revealed that descriptive refection exceeded that of a critical nature, however, bloggers exhibited a positive trajectory toward higher order thinking and blogs were an effective platform for supporting tutor-student interaction. Despite the peer discourse features of blogs, collaborative refection was conspicuous by its absence and an online community of practice did not emerge.

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Amy Price, Dave Collins, John Stoszkowski and Shane Pill

A key feature of any coach’s role is to decide on the most appropriate approach to develop player learning and performance at any given time. When coaching games, these decisions are even more challenging due to the interactive nature of games themselves and, in team games, this interactivity is heightened. Therefore, proponents of various approaches to coaching games could do well to demonstrate how different approaches may compliment rather than oppose each other, to avoid a one-size-fits-all process of coaching. In this insights paper, we summarise some of the fundamental approaches used for coaching games, whilst clarifying and contrasting their theoretical and practical differences. In doing so, we propose that there is a space in the coach’s toolbox for a games approach that hones the metacognitive skills of players. We also suggest reasons why coaches might use metacognitive game design as a tool to develop players’ deep understanding of game play to support player learning and performance.

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Amy Price, Dave Collins, John Stoszkowski and Shane Pill

The purpose of this study was to explore professional soccer coaches’ interpretations of features suggesting players’ game understanding across the age phases of professional academy youth soccer in England, with particular attention paid to the role of strategic understanding. Semistructured interviews were conducted with coaches (n = 19) of players aged 9–23 years to better understand how coaches understand and apply methods to develop players’ strategic game understanding. Data revealed that coaches prioritized the technical and tactical development of their players over strategic development. However, across the age phases, coaches encountered challenges with coaching for strategic understanding (i.e., maintaining control of the game, players as problem solvers, player reflection, and coaching individuals within a team). The authors suggest that coaches and program designers need to show more intent toward developing players’ strategic understanding, becoming more purposeful when choosing “how” to develop this. In particular, coaches should consider how coaching methods that seek to develop players’ metacognitive game skills can be applied, with the goal of developing self-aware, flexible, and independent players as learners who demonstrate an appropriately “deep” understanding of the game.