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Group work in physical education: Exploring the interconnectedness of theoretical approaches and practice

Journal article
Authors Dean Barker
T. Wallhead
S. Brock
V. Goodyear
C. Amade-Escot
Published in Journal of teaching in physical education
Volume 36
Issue 1
Pages 50-60
ISSN 0273-5024
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Pages 50-60
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.2016-0042
Keywords meta-theory, pedagogy, interaction, joint action, cooperation, status
Subject categories Didactics, Sport and Fitness Sciences


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.

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