Associate Professor in Physical Education and Sport at Flinders University, Australia
I first read Tom Bell’s description of The PlaySmart method (Bell, 2003) when I started researching for my PhD thesis (Pill, 2012). In 2011, we were able to align times and set up, using Skype, a games lesson team teaching situation where Flinders University PETE students were engaged with Tom Bell from Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) using his PlaySMART ideas, while he taught his class ‘on the other side of the world’, creating a UK v Aus PlaySMART competition. I have continued to draw on Tom’s ideas since that occasion.
The PlaySMART project was set up by Physical Education staff at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK to investigate how students’ performance in physical education could be enhanced. The program aim was to challenge the
“traditional” view of skill development that Read (1993) found dominant in UK Schools - an almost exclusive preoccupation with the promotion of teacher defined and usually de-contextualised techniques (and therefore 11 years after Bunker and Thorpe (1982) had released details of their project challenging the same pre-occupation). In contrast to separation of technical and tactical components of skill associated with a “traditional’ view on skill development, PlaySmart methods reflected an alternative view, whereby both the cognitive and the motor control components were to be developed at the same time (Bell, 1993).
The PlaySmart program emphasis was on developing the thinking skills and problem-solving knowledge components of sports performance. Drawing on skill acquisition literature, the assumption was put forward that if students are to be flexible problem solvers they need to understand those problems at a conceptual level (Bell, 2003).
The PlaySmart method involved encouraging students to understand game moments through key factors, and how the factors relate to each and how they provide a tactical advantage. In PlaySmart these were called “Moments of Advantage”. (M.O.A.s). The movement sequence that led to the “Moment of Advantage” was termed a “Set Up” pattern. The movement pattern the individual or team makes to exploit this opportunity was called an “Endgame” sequence.
Students would be able to demonstrate their understanding of the game moments using “If Then Production” theory. Here, a “production” solved a problem by offering the player an appropriate association between certain problem conditions and an action (solution). The thinking sequence is: if (describe the challenge) then an appropriate response would be to (insert action) because (this consequence is anticipated) (Bell, 2003; Bell & Penney, 2004). Here, I see a tool for making player thinking visible, so you (teacher/coach) know what they (players) know (Ritchhart et al., 2011).
The PlaySMART method
- Experience of the full game – this is a critical first phase that contextualises the activities that follow;
- A focus on a ‘core task’ that relates to one identified part (phase of play) of that game;
- Participation in ‘SMART challenges’ that are directly linked to the core task.
The “SMART” acronym stands for “Situation”, “Methods”, “Adaption”, “Reduction” and “Transfer” as a problem-solving strategy. Bell’s (2003) paper linked below, provides an example using Kabbardi of how the SMART method works.
This is an example of how I have used some of Tom’s ideas to inform inquiry activities in the Volleyball unit I teach at Flinders University
Bell, T. (2003). The PlaySmart Programme. “Thinking through Physical Education.” Paper presented at the AARE/NZARE Conference, Auckland. https://www.aare.edu.au/data/publications/2003/bel03619.pdf
Bell, T., & Penney, D. (2004). PlaySMART: developing thinking and problem-solvers in physical education. In J. Wright, D. MacDonald & L. Burrows (Eds.). Critical inquiry and problem-solving in physical education (pp. 49-61). Routledge.
Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1982). A model for the teaching of games in secondary schools. Bulletin of Physical Education 18(1), 5–8.
Read, B. (1993). Practical knowledge and a games education at Key Stage 3. British Journal of Physical Education, Spring, 10-14.
Pill, S. (2012). Rethinking sport teaching in physical education. Doctoral dissertation, University of Tasmania. https://eprints.utas.edu.au/15016/
Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. John Wiley & Sons.