The pages of research journals, professional magazines, websites and conference bookstands are filled with miracle cures and wonder drugs designed to transform our teaching lives. However, it is like entering a 19th century health store with its interesting aromas and its rows upon rows of pill bottles containing every known medicinal herb and vitamin, with multi-herbs and multi-vitamins, and oils and salves and...the list goes on. The whole image harbours back to the days of ‘miracle cures’, ‘talisman’ and ‘wonder potions’ – the wares of travelling salesman designed to part the unwary and sceptical from their money. Indeed, for those of you who read Dr Zeus, the Sylvester McMonkey McBean’s of this world. 

Teaching has suffered from similar ‘quackery’ and yet these innovations have never, it seems, been more than flashes in the pan. At least that is how you might be led to believe it.  In physical education some innovative approaches have been consider ‘new’ for twenty or thirty years and yet the chatter about them doesn’t die down and those who have seen them work sing loudly (well at least as loud as academic paper, presentations and books allow) about their abilities to finally develop students’ and their learning rather than replicate the ‘cures’ of our forefathers. In this series of blogs I will explore a number of innovative practices in turn: Sport Education; Cooperative Learning; and Teaching Games for Understanding (as a starting point). But before I do that I would direct you to one book that might help you understand a little more about these pedagogies.

In 2000 and 2005 Michael Metzler published the first two editions of his book “Instructional Models for Physical Education” published by Holcomb Hathaway. In these books Mike brings seven pedagogical models to our attention and devotes a chapter to explaining and exampling each of these approaches. This book has become a bit of a seminal text for academic writers referring to instructional models in physical education.

Some debate has also occurred around Mike’s choice of title with some leading academics suggesting that the term ‘instruction’ maintains the status quo by putting the emphasis on the teacher to teach rather than seeing the teacher as a facilitator of learning (which is the objective of a number of these approaches). They offer models-based practice (MBP) and pedagogical models as alternatives. With this in mind, and in the firm personally belief that MBP is a more student-centred term, I will from now on (i.e. in my future blogs) refer to these innovations as MBP’s.

In the next Blog I will write about Sport Education and the most prolific of the MBP’s in physical education.