Department of Health Sciences & Kinesiology
Center for Public Health Practice and Research Affiliate Faculty
Georgia Southern University
PO Box 8076
Statesboro, GA 30460
For teachers who are familiar with a games-based approach, differentiating instruction can be relatively simple. The very nature of the model requires an initial assessment of students’ tactical awareness and skills. To further differentiate instruction, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment can be done by using either the Game Performance Assessment Instrument (GPAI) or a modified version in rubric form such as a game-play assessment rubric (Mitchell et al., 2013). Based on the age and developmental level of the students, a game-play assessment rubric that assigns levels to performance in areas such as decision-making, support, passing, dribbling, and shooting may be appropriate and feasible. This process provides teachers with important information for planning future learning tasks as well as grouping, which will allow for varied pacing options within lessons. Throughout the unit, teachers will need to constantly observe and informally assess student progress of the same skills and tactics assessed at the beginning of the unit. Summary reports of game play can also provide students with important formative feedback of their in-game performance.
As stated previously, sport-related content is desirable for most students. Therefore, student interest can be increased by making connections to various game types. For example, students may have a well-established interest in basketball, and this can be used to foster increased interest in other invasion games such as team handball. Mitchell et al. (2013) also suggest that entire units of instruction can be developed based on game type to highlight similarities among games (i.e., a unit where basketball, football, soccer, and field hockey are combined). Because many students have an established interested in some form of sport, interest can be further refined in other ways such as in Table 1, showing an example of an Olympic athlete playing team handball. Because of the nature of learning tasks in Tactical Games, the model accounts for a variety of intelligence preferences as well.
The type of learning tasks—game forms, situated skill drills, modified games, and full games—provides teachers with a variety of access points regarding unit content. The teacher has a great deal of flexibility in presenting and structuring each of these tasks for students. While Tactical Games does require a high degree of teacher control, both units and lessons can account for personalized student progressions. Within the unit, the teacher will establish the content listing, learning sequence of tactics and skills, and progression within levels of task complexity (Mitchell et al., 2013). Within lessons, students can progress through the typical order of game forms, drills, and then modified games and/or full games. However, pacing can be varied for students by placing them in groups based on their current levels of understanding and skill (as in the example in Table 1, team handball). Students can then move together within the unit or lesson through the learning sequence established by the teacher. The learning process can be further differentiated by allowing student to make some decisions within game forms, as well as varied engagement patterns in situated skill drills.
Student learning can be further differentiated by assessing students and groups based on diagnostic assessment results. Flexible assessment schemes and goal-setting can allow students to achieve success based on individual improvement in tactics and skills. In this case, it is vital that teachers use highly authentic assessments at the beginning and end of the lesson. The learning environment can then be differentiated by using many of the same strategies applied in Direct Instruction to foster student support and develop self-direction. Visual aids can be very effective in teaching tactics and strategy as it related to unit content. Online videos can be used to display spacing and support in a team handball game. Additionally, common pedagogical modifications such as inter- and intra-task variation as well as various equipment options can further ensure that an environment is created that meets the developmental needs of individual students. Table 1. outlines the considerations for using Tactical Games to differentiate learning in a middle grades’ unit on team handball.
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