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Relinquish control and enhance student-teacher and student-student relationships

This is an excerpt from Using Physical Activity and Sport to Teach Personal and Social Responsibility by Doris Watson & Brian Clocksin.

Student-Centered Learning

A major aspect of the TPSR model is its focus on student-teacher and student-student relationships. An easy way to think about this is to ask ourselves as teachers, How do I invite the views, thoughts, or input of my students into my teaching? Given how we invite our students to share in the methods we use to teach, we are creating a situation through which we relinquish control and thus enhance student-teacher and student-student relationships.

A way to think about how we invite students into our teaching is to use the spectrum of teaching styles by Mosston and Ashworth (2002). The spectrum places the teaching context on a continuum (figure 3.3). The continuum is anchored on one end by teaching styles that are convergent or that come to a common goal. The opposite end of the continuum is anchored by teaching styles that are divergent or that have many goals or possible answers.

Mosston conceptualized the teaching spectrum on the basis of the decisions the teachers made; as he states, “Teaching behavior is a chain of decision making” (Mosston & Ashworth 2002, p. 4). For Mosston, the spectrum identified teaching and learning options. Thus, the goal of the spectrum was for teachers to become proficient in generating a variety of teaching contexts based on the content focus, objectives, and learner needs. Movement along the teaching continuum is based on manipulation of the three phases of teaching: preimpact, impact, and postimpact.

  • The preimpact phase entails establishing the lesson objectives and focus. It is often the teacher who is primarily in charge of this aspect of teaching.
  • The impact phase is the actual execution of the teaching. This includes elements such as the pace of the lesson and the types of learning activities. Obviously, these aspects can also be primarily teacher centered; but within the spectrum, it is when we step away from the center in the impact phase that we begin to elicit a more student-centered approach.
  • The postimpact phase includes evaluation of the student's performance both during and after completion of the task.

As the teacher begins to release control of the various phases to the student, the style of teaching changes and typically moves from the convergent end of the continuum toward the divergent end.

Mosston identified 11 styles of teaching, labeled styles A through K. The first five styles (A through E) represent teaching decisions that foster and support reproduction of past knowledge; these styles are called command, practice/task, reciprocal, inclusion, and self-check. The rest of the styles (F through K) represent options that foster production of new knowledge; these styles are called guided discovery, convergent discovery, divergent discovery, learner-designed individual program, learner-initiated, and self-teaching.

Here we briefly discuss the styles incorporated into part II of this book. For a more detailed discussion of all the styles (A through K), the reader is directed to Mosston and Ashworth (2002).


Response is influenced by telling students what to do, telling them how to practice, and directing practice.

Most effective approach when:

  • Goal is to learn and perform specific skill
  • Teacher is looking for a specific response
  • Teacher has limited experience working with a group
  • Time for organization is limited


The teacher presents information through tasks, often organized into stations, that provide the teacher with the flexibility to maintain control over the teaching phases (teacher-centered) or begin to release some control to the students.

  • Involves different students (often individually or in pairs) practicing different tasks at the same time
  • Involves stations and task cards
  • Works well when students need to practice skills they have already been taught

Most effective approach when:

  • Teacher explains stations or tasks well beforehand
  • Teacher makes managerial aspects clear
  • Teacher frequently checks with students
  • Students start with only a few stations or tasks
  • Students work well independently
  • Students are able to function without close supervision


Teacher designs and communicates tasks, and students assume roles of providing feedback and assessment to peers.

Most effective approach when:

  • Skill to be taught is simple
  • Cues for observation are clear
  • Performance is easily measured


The teacher designs tasks; students are allowed to choose the level at which they begin the tasks that best meets their needs or ability levels. Learners make a decision based on self-assessment of their entry point (e.g., size of ball, distance to goal). When the learner meets that goal, she can challenge herself again at a new level.

  • Accommodates individual learning differences
  • Individualizes further because choices are presented
  • Is really a developmentally appropriate approach

Most effective approach when:

  • Criteria for self-evaluation and assessment of success are clear
  • Performance is easily measured
  • Students work well independently


Similar to the reciprocal style, the teacher designs and communicates the task; however, in this style students assume a self-teaching role as they perform the task and then self-assess and reflect upon their performance.

  • Carryover from task and reciprocal styles
  • Decisions shifted to the learner in the impact and postimpact phases
  • Learners weaned away from external feedback; they provide their own feedback as they self-monitor their progress on task
  • Learner decides the context based on feedback from self-evaluation

Most effective approach when:

  • Teacher values the learner's ability to develop self-monitoring capacity
  • Teacher trusts the student to be honest
  • Learner can identify own limits, successes, and failures
  • Learner can use self-check as feedback
  • Learner can work independently

Guided Discovery

Teaching is through questioning, designed to let students think and solve problems. Two versions:

  • Convergent inquiry: Students discover the same answer to a series of questions.
  • Divergent inquiry: Students find multiple answers to a problem.

Most effective approach when:

  • Students are encouraged to think independently to discover new and different approaches to performing skill
  • Students are encouraged to solve questions related to teamwork and strategy as they relate to skill performance
  • Students are encouraged to explore a movement when they are not yet ready to learn a mature version of the skill

Once we make the decision to alter the style of teaching, we are also making the decision to give the student a greater role in the lesson and thus are facilitating development of personal and social responsibility. As noted in table 1.1 (chapter 1), each teaching style connects the student to a different TPSR level focus and underscores the student's awareness and recognition of his personal and eventually social responsibility. Thus, as noted in this book and by Don, it is critical that TPSR be integrated within all aspects of your lessons and content. Incorporating divergent teaching styles allows students to make decisions within the learning context. This approach is unique in that it engages the learner in the discovery and production of options within the subject matter (Mosston & Ashworth 2002).

For example, when youth are afforded the opportunity to set their own learning pace during lesson practice, select the type(s) of equipment that best match their ability level, and work in small collaborative groups, this allows them to work on skills of self-direction, participation, cooperation, and goal setting (TPSR Levels II and III). Divergent teaching styles also create opportunities for students to learn how to assess their own performance as well as to assess and provide feedback to each other through peer or reciprocal learning (Levels III and IV).

Alteration of one's teaching style is crucial by its very nature to creating a caring environment. Therefore incorporation of the styles of teaching serves to create an environment ripe with teachable moments that enhance and connect to the TPSR model. Whether students are learning sport skills or life skills, infusion of the strategies presented here will help teachers develop youth who are responsible and caring members of their school and community.

The choice of teaching style depends on a number of factors, including the following:

  • Teacher beliefs: It is difficult to loosen control; is the teacher comfortable doing so?
  • Goals of lessons: Are the skills or tasks familiar to the students or are they completely new?
  • Teacher skill and preference: Is the teacher confident about her teaching skills?
  • Student characteristics: Do students work well independently without supervision?
  • Nature of content: Are students familiar with the content? How complex is it?
  • Context of teaching: How much equipment and space are available?

Learn more about Using Physical Activity and Sport to Teach Personal and Social Responsibility.

More Excerpts From Using Physical Activity and Sport to Teach Personal and Social Responsibility