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The Game Sense Model in Physical Education

By Ray Breed and Michael Spittle


Teachers have been using tactical and game-based teaching approaches, including models such as teaching games for understanding (TGFU) and game sense, for years. In 2011, we developed our version of a game sense model for teaching physical education, and this model was revised and improved in 2020. The game sense model emphasizes and integrates tactical, technical, and strategic skills within game contexts. Learners are challenged with problems to solve within structured games and are guided by questions. It is often thought that technical skills are not practiced within tactical approaches, but they are in fact learned concurrently with the development of tactical skills and understanding of the game.


The game sense model (in Breed & Spittle, 2021) is both a content and pedagogical framework, based on common theories of motor control, skill acquisition, and pedagogy. The model uses a thematic approach, with small-sided structured games classified into three categories: invasion, striking and fielding, and net and wall games. There are many advantages to using such a thematic approach, such as improving skill transfer, understanding of games, and more efficient use of instruction time.


When teaching a game to the learners, the pedagogy of game sense can be simplified into three steps. First, we need to develop and establish clear objectives for the game (e.g., when to pass the ball, how to pass the ball). Second, we use questioning to guide learners and help them explore movement solutions (e.g., When should you pass the ball?). Finally, we modify a task constraint (e.g., rule, area, or object) and replay the game to challenge the learners to discover tactical and technical movement solutions. An example of this pedagogy is to begin with a learning outcome focus on developing tactical and technical skills of when to pass and how to pass by playing a 2-versus-1 game of Keep Away (also known as Keepings Off). In the game, ask “When should you pass the ball?” to encourage exploration of movement solutions. Finally, we could change a constraint to allow dribbling of the ball to challenge the learners to discover movement solutions based on the task constraint modification.


Game sense model

Developing Game Sense in Physical Education and SportBreed, R., & Spittle, M. (2021). Developing game sense in physical education and sport. Human Kinetics.


Ray BreedRay Breed is a lecturer of exercise and sport science at Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Australia. When he’s not teaching or chasing his two terriers around, he loves anything to do with sport and the outdoors – playing cricket, competing in masters athletics and loves his mountain biking.


Michael SpittleMichael Spittle is Associate Professor in Motor Learning and Skill Acquisition at Victoria University in Melbourne Australia. He has a keen interest in sport and physical activity and spends a lot of his time chasing after his two children at a range of sports and physical activities, including tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and gymnastics.