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A Constructivist Approach to Teaching and Increasing Student’s Motivation in P.E.

Info: 7636 words (31 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Tagged: EducationSociologyPhysical Education

Topic: A constructivist approach to teaching and increasing student’s motivation in P.E.


There has been a significant change within Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) over the past decade (Griggs and Ward, 2012), due to a number of government sponsored initiatives (Tsangaridou, 2012). One such initiative conducted by the Physical Education and Sport Strategy for Young People (PESSYP, 2009) put in place a scheme known as the ‘Five Hour Offer’. This scheme aimed to ensure that all 5-16year olds would have access to two hours of high quality PE and three hours of sport outside of the curriculum, every week.

However in 2009/2010, an independent research company commissioned by the department of education and skills conducted an annual survey of school sport in England and the results were worrying. Their research showed that only 57% of 5-16 year olds were receiving at least 3 hours of high quality P.E and out of hour’s school sport in a typical week. What is even more worrying is that this number decreased as students progressed through school. At the beginning of secondary school it was revealed that 59% of year 7 was receiving at least 3 hours of P.E and sport in a typical week. However, by the time they finish secondary school in year 11; only 40% of students were receiving at least 3 hours of P.E and sport in a typical week (Department for Education and Skills, 2010).

P.E offers students a wide range of opportunities for enjoyment, acquisition of new motor skills and aids in the development of physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills which in all can have a significant influence on a student’s educational development (Fairclough, 2003; Hassandra, Goudas & Chroni, 2003; Morgan & Bourke, 2008). Furthermore, a vast number of researches have found that P.E can benefit the future of public health, with positive P.E experiences being correlated with engaging in lifelong participation in physical activity (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Shephard & Trudeau, 2000).

It is because of these benefits that the subject of youth participation in PESS has been of great interest over the past decade. Even though research has shown that there is not just one issue but a number of barriers that prevent students to participate in PESS, student’s motivation have been a common occurrence in research conducted over the past decade. According to Kent (2007), the definition of motivation is the internal state that tends to direct a person’s behaviour towards a goal. Ideally, teachers want students to be intrinsically motivated as research has shown that students who are more intrinsically motivated show a more positive attitude towards P.E and are more likely to participate in sport or physical activity outside of school (Portman, 2003). This is supported by Ryan and Deci (2000), as they found that students who are more intrinsically motivated are more associated with positive outcomes such as enjoyment, fun, persistence, interest and psychological well being. Therefore, it is important that we try to get more students intrinsically motivated, as this can play a vital role in increasing the participation rates in PESS (Ntoumanis, 2005).

In order for teachers to increase intrinsic motivation among their students there are three psychological needs that need to be satisfied which are autonomy, competence and relatedness (Ntoumanis, 2001; Deci & Ryan, 2000). To help students satisfy these psychological needs, teachers need to offer autonomous support (Standage et al, 2006). This can be done through the use of supportive strategies within P.E lessons such as helping students set personal goals, getting students involved in decision making, acknowledging students perspectives, providing choice and always providing rationale for tasks (Mageau and Vallerand, 2003; Cox et al, 2008).

Another way a teacher can look to increase intrinsic motivation is by looking at the type of motivational climate they are setting within their lessons through the use of Achievement Goal Theory (AGT). AGT states that there are two motivational climates that a teacher can set, a task or an ego orientated climate (Weinberg & Gould 2014). A task orientated environment puts an emphasis on personal improvement, whereas an ego based environment puts an emphasis on comparing their performance to that of other students (Ames & Archer, 1988; Jagacinski & Strickland, 2000). Therefore when looking to improve intrinsic motivation among students teachers should look to incorporate a task orientated environment as it has been positively correlated with perceived competence (Reinboth & Duda, 2004); increased effort and positive performance (Pensgaard & Roberts, 2002) and enjoyment and satisfaction (Vazou et al., 2005).

As a huge emphasis has been put on increasing student’s intrinsic motivation, this has led to more teachers taking a more constructivist approach to teaching. A constructivist approach believes that students’ learning occurs when students are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction, instead of being fed information by the teacher (Pelech, 2005). This is supported by Jean Piaget who stated that children learn best when they are provided with control and responsibility of their own learning, and creating their own understanding of what’s going on (Mooney, 2013).

A form of constructivist teaching that P.E teachers incorporate within their lessons in hope to increase student’s intrinsic motivation is the Sport Education Model (SEM). Dayl Siedentop (1994) developed the SEM and has since been successfully implemented internationally. The model is a student led approach, where the teacher puts students into teams; provides realistic roles such as captains, coaches, trainers, statisticians and officials; and then provides them with limited instructions before setting them off on a task (Perlman and Karp, 2010). This provides students with more control of their sporting experience and responsibility of their learning (Metzler, 2017). The SEM has been found to have a number of benefits with students finding it more enjoyable than traditional lessons which lead to increased participation, positive sporting experiences, development of leadership skills and socialisation (Darst and Pangrazi, 2009).

I order to examine more closely the effectiveness of a constructivist approach to teaching and its effects on student’s motivation in P.E, the present study will critically evaluate a research paper focused on the influence of sport education on student motivation in physical education (Spittle and Byrne, 2009). The evaluation of this study and its findings will then be considered alongside observations and action research project carried on the use of constructivist approaches to increase student’s motivation within P.E in personal professional practice.


M.Spittle & K.Byrne. (2009). The Influence of Sport Education on student motivation in PE.

The next section of the current study will analyse and critically evaluate the above study conducted by Spittle and Byrne (2009). This section will be divided into 3 sections: Research Problem/Theoretical Background, Method and Instruments, and Main Findings and Conclusion.

Research Problem

Spittle and Byrne (2009) identified that physical educators have a constant battle with finding new ways to motivate and keep students motivated within their lessons. This is made harder as student’s motivation in physical education declines as they progress through school (Mowling et al, 2004). Spittle and Byrne (2009) also identified that the Sport Education Model (SEM) has had plenty of research that supports the positive impact that it has within lessons; however, its effects on student’s motivation and the motivational climate are still lacking understanding. Therefore, the goal of Spittle and Byrne (2009) study was to investigate the influence of the Sport Education model on student motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, goal orientations, and perceived motivational climate) in secondary physical education.

As previously stated there is an extensive amount of research stating the positive effects of the SEM on students such as: increased participation, positive sporting experiences, development of leadership skills and socialisation (Darst and Pangrazi, 2009). Due to the extensive research surrounding the positive effects of the SEM, Spittle and Byrne (2009) hypothesised that effort/importance, interest/enjoyment, perceived competence, task orientation and a mastery-oriented motivational climate would increase and pressure/tension, ego orientation and a performance-oriented climate would decrease when implementing the SEM in comparison to implementing a traditional teaching approach.

In terms of referencing their work to previous literature and providing theoretical background, Spittle and Byrne (2009) state that the two areas of motivation that are extensively researched are intrinsic motivation and achievement motivation (Treasure and Roberts 2001; Zahariadis and Biddle 2004). They carry on by defining intrinsic motivation as individuals who engage voluntarily in activities for its own sake, whereas extrinsic motivation occurs when individuals are motivated by extrinsic factors, such as rewards and social recognition (Gill, 2000). They then highlight that we want students to be intrinsically motivated as they show a greater interest, experience enjoyment in the activity and adhere to participation better than extrinsically motivated students (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Ryan et al, 1997).

Spittle and Byrne (2009) continue providing theoretical background around the area of motivation, by stating that achievement motivation literature has been focused on achievement goals and motivational climate (Carpenter and Morgan 1999; Roberts 2001). They start this section off by explaining that there are two primary achievement goals, which are task goal and ego goal orientation (Nicholls, 1989). They expand on this by explaining that an individual who are task orientated use self-referenced goals based on learning and task mastery, whereas individuals that are ego orientated use norm-orientated goals that are based on demonstrating ability (Weinberg & Gould 2014). They then state that students should look to adopt a task goal orientation rather than an ego goal orientation, as task goal is often linked to intrinsic motivation and leads to students having an increase in satisfaction, enjoyment and motivation (Treasure and Roberts 2001; Duda et al. 1995).

The final motivational aspect Spittle and Byrne (2009) focuses on is motivational climate, which they state can have a considerable influence on the motivation of an individual. They explain that there are two climates that a teacher can adopt, one being a mastery climate which reinforces positive reinforcement of effort, improvement, and cooperation; and then there’s a performance climate which reinforces social comparison, competition, and punishment for mistakes (Weinberg and Gould 2003). Perceived motivational climate has an effect on an individual’s goal orientation, with a mastery climate leading to a task orientation and a performance climate leading to ego orientation (Treasure and Roberts, 2001).

Within all three of these motivation sections (intrinsic motivation, achievement goal and motivational climate) Spittle and Byrne (2009) follow the same pattern. They identify what it is, the difference between the two areas within them and which one is more beneficial for students and why. Even though this format is justified as it provides the reader with vital theoretical background it does lack significant depth. A more in depth analysis of each of these motivational areas would allow for a more thorough understanding of each theory.

For example, each motivational section overlooks what effects extrinsic motivation, ego orientation and performance climate would have on students. Research conducted by Lonsdale, Hodge and Rose (2009) explains that constantly using extrinsic forms of motivation, which they refer to controlling motives, can have negative effects on student and could lead to burnout and a fear of failure which could lead to a decrease in their participation. Whereas, Dweck (2000) suggest that ego orientated students can have the same motivational pattern as task orientated students but only when they are winning and their perceived competence is high. However, ego orientated students struggle to maintain high perceived competence as they compare their performance others and when their competence is questioned, they start to question their ability and show a lack of effort which leads to poorer performances (Elliott & Dweck, 1988; Graham & Golan, 1991). Finally, research by Weinberg and Gould (2014) shows that by setting a performance based climate it can consequently lead to low effort and attributes to failures, anxiety, peer conflict and lower moral functioning (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999).

Another example of information that could have been useful for the reader was what they can do to ensure that students are intrinsically motivated, task orientated and how they can set a mastery climate. For example, the work of Deci and Ryan (2000) suggest that in order for students to be more intrinsically motivated and have a higher autonomous form of motivation, three psychological needs, autonomy, competence and relatedness have to be satisfied. This can be helped by a teacher by offering autonomy support which can be done by acknowledging student’s perspectives, helping students set personal goals and getting students involved in decision making (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003).  Research conducted by Weinberg and Gould (2014) suggest, in order to set a mastery climate teachers should not group students based on ability, evaluate success and improvement individually, encourage individuals to use their own learning strategies and not to punish individuals for making mistakes. This will then lead to students becoming more task orientated.

By providing this type of information within their study Spittle and Byrne (2009) would provide readers with a much more detailed theoretical background of these motivational sections, thus providing the readers with a much clearer understanding of why certain motivational techniques are better than others and how to use the motivational techniques correctly. Yes the article looks at how the sport education model enhances intrinsic motivation, task orientation and mastery climate, but by providing this extra information shows how the readers can incorporate other successful ways of increasing these areas alongside the sport education model.

Method and Instruments

The aim of Spittle and Byrne (2009) was to investigate the influence of the Sport Education model on student motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, goal orientations, and perceived motivational climate) in secondary physical education. Accordingly, a sample was generated through a co-educational government high school. A total of 115 (97 male and 18 female) year 8 students were selected from six classes that were available in the sports of soccer, hockey and football codes (combination of Australian rules, Gaelic football and touch football). Spittle and Byrne (20099) then split the sample so 41 participants were taking part in sport education lessons, 17 in hockey, 13 in soccer and 11 in football codes; and 74 participants were taking part in traditional condition lessons, 21 in hockey, 26 and 27 in two soccer classes. The female participants were split evenly with 9 taking part in sport education hockey lessons and 9 taking part in the traditional condition hockey lessons.

Comparing Spittle and Byrne (2009) selection of participants to a similar study conducted by Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004), Spittle and Byrne use more than double the amount of participants (115) to that of Wallhead and Ntoumanis (51). By using more participants in their study it could be argued that Spittle and Byrne (2009) would have more reliable and valid results to that of Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004). However, Spittle and Byrne (2009) split their participants unevenly with 33 more participants taking part in traditional condition lessons than the sport education lessons. This then also leads to bigger class sizes in the traditional lessons to those of the sport education lessons. Spittle and Byrne (2009) provided little clarification to why the participants were grouped like this with them stating groups were established and selected for convenience purposes. Whereas, Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) kept their groupings around the same size with 26 participating in sport education lessons and 25 participating in traditional condition lessons. Spittle and Byrne (2009) should have adopted a similar approach and insured that participants were split equally across the two types of lessons and that class sizes were around the same size. This would have avoided questions that surround the validity and reliability of their results due to their uneven sample sizes.

Spittle and Byrne (2009) used a quantitative paradigm whilst conducting their research, with the use of three different questionnaires for each motivational area. They used the IMI (Ryan, 1982; McAuley, Duncan and Tammen, 1989) to measure intrinsic motivation; the TEOSQ (Duda and Nicholls, 1992) to assess goal orientation; and the Perceived Motivational Climate in Sport Questionnaire (PMCSQ) to measure the perceived motivational climate. All three questionnaires had acceptable reliability and validity to be used within the context of the study (Duda et al. 1992; Walling, Duda, and Chi, 1993; Goudas and Biddle, 1994).

Similar research conducted by Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) also used a quantitative paradigm and also used questionnaires as their research tool. In fact the two studies both used the IMI questionnaire for intrinsic motivation and the TEOSQ for goal orientation. The only difference between the two studies is that Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) used the Learning and Performance Orientations in Physical Education Classes Questionnaire (LAPOPECQ) to assess their perceived motivational climate. Therefore the research tool and research paradigm that Spittle and Byrne (2009) decided on is supported by previous literature.

The procedure that Spittle and Byrne (2009) implemented was that participants taking part in sport education lesson would have one double period (100minutes) per week for 10 weeks. Whereas, the participants taking part in the traditional condition lesson would have one double period (100minutes) per week for 5 weeks. Participants would complete the pre-test measures in the first 10 minutes of the first lesson and then complete the post-test measures in the last 10 minutes of their last lesson. This would then allow them to see how their motivation has changed over the course of the study as well as comparing the sport education lessons and the traditional lessons together.

This procedure is similar to that of previous literature as Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) also used pre and post measures to see how motivational levels changed over the course of the study. They also used the comparison between sport education lessons and traditional condition lessons to demonstrate which is better at increasing motivation among pupils. However, the one area of difference between the two studies is the length of time that the lessons went on for. For some reason Spittle and Byrne (2009) had their sport education lessons go on for twice as long as the traditional condition lessons. Whereas, Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) had both last 8 weeks. By having one last longer than the other Spittle and Byrne (2009) have provided participants in the sport education lessons more time to increase their motivation than those in the traditional lessons. This yet again puts the reliability and validity of their results in doubt.


After the analysis to the data was conducted, Spittle and Byrne (2009) found that there was a significant difference between the sport education and traditional conditions in the areas: perceived competence, task orientation and mastery climate. These measures decreased from pre to post test in the traditional condition lessons compared to the sport education lessons. However, there was no significant difference in the areas: interest/enjoyment, effort/importance, pressure/tension, ego orientation and performance climate. Therefore, Spittle and Byrne (2009) concluded that these results suggest that the sport education condition was more successful in maintaining high levels of intrinsic motivation, task orientation and mastery climate, whereas the traditional condition was associated with a decrease in adaptive aspects of students motivation. This is supported by Wallhead and O’Sullivan (2005), as they stat the sport education model is associated with increased student enthusiasm, involvement and participation, which are likely to be associated with increased motivation.

Previous research conducted by Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) supports the finding that sport education leads to increased mastery climate. This is likely to be associated with a task orientation and positive motivation (Treasure and Roberts, 2001). Interestingly, Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) also found that sport education lead to increased enjoyment and perceived effort, whereas Spittle and Byrne (2004) found there was no significant difference in enjoyment or perceived effort, but there was a significant difference in task orientation and perceived competence. Another difference between the two studies was that, Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) found that sport education led to significant increases in motivation, whereas Spittle and Byrne (2009) found that sport education just maintained high levels of motivation.

Past theoretical models suggest that the motivational climate is likely to have an influence on goal orientation and intrinsic motivation (Weinberg and Gould, 2003). These theoretical models support the findings of Spittle and Byrne (2009) has there were significant differences between the conditions on perceived competence, task orientation and mastery climate. Spittle and Byrne (2009) further confirmed this by conducting a correlational analysis, which showed that a mastery climate was positively related to intrinsic motivation and task orientation, and a performance climate was related to ego orientation.

In conclusion despite questions and doubts regarding the reliability and validity of Spittle and Byrne (2009), due to their decisions with their method, the results of the study overall supported the results of previous research.


The next section of the current study will discuss the application of constructivist approaches and their effectiveness to increase motivation within P.E lessons in a middle school in the north east of England. These constructivist approaches were either observed or implemented by the researcher during their time at this school.

Observations of the school were first carried out by the researcher to see what current constructivist approaches they currently use and how effective are they on the student’s motivation within P.E lessons. This school’s P.E department have used a constructivist approach to teaching P.E for years with them implementing a Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) approach in every sport where it is possible. A TGfU approach was first proposed by Bunker and Thorpe (1982) as an alternative to traditional, technique-led approaches, so that the learner was at the centre of the learning process and the teacher is more of a facilitator than a director. TGfU approach is designed so that lessons replicate game based scenarios that focus on the physical, technical and physiological demands of match play (Gabbett, Jenkins and Abernethy, 2009). The overall aim of a TGfU approach is to get students to understand how they can implement specific skills and tactics into a competitive game situation (Kapp, 2012). It is for that reason why this school looks to implement this approach in every sport where it is possible as they look to help students become better all round games players and not just skilled individuals.

During observations it is clear that students respond well to this approach with participation and engagement levels being really high, whilst there being barely any behaviour issues within lessons. Students seem to enjoy their lessons and the researcher believes this is mainly down to the increased opportunity they get to play competitive games. Another reason as to why students seem to enjoy their lessons is down to the limited teacher talk they receive during the lesson and the increased amount of time taking part in physical activity. These positives are supported by Forrest, Webb and Pearson (2006) who found that increased participation, engagement and enjoyment were some of the benefits of a TGfU approach.

With the school adopting a TGfU approach in every sport where possible, the P.E department developed their own assessment criteria that is specific to a TGfU approach with students getting assessed on their social, personal, cognitive, physical and creative skills. This is supported by previous research as a TGfU is aimed to develop a student’s socialisation, cognitive skills, problem solving skills and gain a higher order of thinking (Light, 2004; Griffin and Butler, 2005).

In terms of motivation, it is clear by the participation and engagement levels that this approach is having a positive effect on the student’s motivation levels in P.E. This is also supported by the amount of students that are taking part in extra-curricular sport activities. The school has extra-curricular activities in sport before, during and after school and on average they have over one hundred students taking part in extra-curricular sports per day. This demonstrates that a large amount of students are motivated to continue to take part in sport outside of their P.E lessons.

After the observations were completed, the researcher decided to implement the Sport Education model when teaching football to three classes over a six week period. Class 1 consisted of 31 year 7 mixed gender and mixed ability students; class 2 consisted of 34 year 8 male mixed ability students; and class 3 consisted of 30 year 8 male mixed ability students. Each class received one lesson of football a week for six weeks. This is half the amount of a typical Sport Education unit and therefore adaption’s to the model had to be made.

Each class were split into 6 teams of either 5 or 6 members per team. These teams were determined by the researcher with the help of the class teacher. Class 1 was mixed ability teams with their being 2 female teams and 4 male teams. Class 2 and 3 were split into ability groups with 2 teams being higher ability, 2 teams being medium ability and 2 teams being lower ability. When students were sorted into teams, each team was allocated a team captain and a vice captain.

In the lessons teams had to complete a warm up, skill related activity based on that weeks topic (e.g. tackling, passing or shooting) and then complete a conditioned game based on the week’s topic. Team captains with the help of their vice captain had to organise and conduct a warm up and skill related activity for the lesson. Teams were awarded points by the researcher/class teacher for the best warm ups, skill related activity, organisation, game based performance and sportsmanship (See appendix 1 for scoring table). At the end of the lesson the team that accumulate the most point would win and get a positive point which was the schools reward system for positive behaviour and work.

It took all three classes a couple of lessons to get used to this new way of teaching as all students were used to a TGfU approach. This was shown with a number of students asking before the lesson if they were going to be playing games for the first couple of lessons even though the majority of the lessons was game based with only the first 15 minutes being skill/drills based. However once the students got used to the format of the Sport Education Model the students seemed to enjoy the lessons a lot, especially the skill related activity section as students found that they were provided with more responsibility over their learning and also provided with a chance to show off their creativity. This supports the findings of Metzler (2017) who states that the sport education model aims to provide students with more control over their sporting experiences and responsibility for their learning.

The researcher also found other benefits of the Sport Education Model included increased engagement and participation, socialisation and behaviour management. The researcher found this was mostly down to the inclusion of the point system as students responded well to this competitive element of the lesson and students were always looking for ways to pick up points for their team. These findings support the research of Darst and Pangrazi (2009), who state that the Sport Education Model has positive effects on enjoyment, participation, positive sporting experiences, socialisation and the development of leadership skills.

In terms of motivation, there was no assessment done to determine the motivation levels of the students at the end of the six week period. However, it was clear to see by the participation, engagement and effort levels shown by the students that they were highly motivated to do well in the lesson. The researcher suggests that the motivation of the students was down to a couple of factors: One being provided with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, creativity and skill within the skill related activities; and the other was wanting to score as many points as possible for their team in order for them to get a positive point. However, this study would agree with the findings from Spittle and Byrne (2009), that the Sport Education Model did not increase the student’s motivation but merely maintained motivation at a high standard. This was because the student’s at the school where this study was completed were already highly motivated in their P.E lessons from the use of TGfU and it would have been very difficult to increase their motivation anymore.


The findings of this study suggest that the use of constructivist approaches to teaching P.E have positive effects on maintaining students motivation but does not prove that it is effective in increasing students motivations. This contradicts previous research conducted by Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004), who found that constructivist, approaches such as the Sport Education Model increases students motivation within P.E lessons. However, the findings in this study is also consistent with previous research in the way it that suggests that children learn best when they have control and responsibility of their own learning, and creating their own understanding of what’s going on (Mooney, 2013).

Even though this study and the study of Spittle and Byrne (2009) demonstrate positive results, there were a number of limitations to both sets of research. One of the biggest limitations in both sets of research was using a sample that was already highly motivated in P.E. With the sample already being highly motivated it was always going to be difficult to try and increase their motivation further with the use of a different teaching approach. Therefore future research would benefit from using a sample that is known to have low motivational rate in P.E and see what effects a constructivist approach then has on them.

Another limitation that was noticeable in both studies was that the sample that was used was either year 7 or year 8 classes, which is the lower spectrum of secondary school. Research by Mowling et al, 2004 suggests that students motivation declines the as they progress through school. This is supported by Department for Education and Skills (2010), as they found that participation rates in P.E drops from 59% in year 7 to only 40% in year 11. Therefore, future research would benefit from using a sample from the higher end of secondary schools as this is where motivation and participation in P.E is at its lowest.


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Appendix 1 – Sport Education Model Scoring Sheet

Team Number Q&A Warm Up Main Activity Performance Sportsmanship Organisation Match Result Total




















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