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Invasion Games Competence Model bubble soccer unit on students’ decision making

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a hybrid Sport Education–Invasion Games
Competence Model (SE-IGCM) unit application on students’ improvements in decision making,
skill execution and overall game performance, during a bubble soccer season. Twenty-six fifth-grade students
from a Portuguese public elementary school participated in a 22-lesson season, in which
pre-test, post-test and retention test measures were analyzed through the instrument developed
by Blomqvist et al. (2005). Results showed that teaching a bubble soccer unit in a SE environment
sustained by the learning tasks structure provided by the IGCM offered students a chance to
improve skill execution, as well their tactical decision making. The overall results showed a
strong impact on students’ learning, especially for girls and low skill-level students, fostered
by the equitable participation. The retention test was particularly important to assess gains of
students of all skill levels, particularly the low-skilled students.

It is broadly recognized that both the Sport Education (SE) model and Teaching Games for
Understanding (TGfU) are crucial in conceptual and methodological support to more effective and
appealing learning environments in physical education classes (Kirk, 2005; Metzler, 2000). SE is a
model aimed at producing competent, literate and enthusiastic sport players. A primary concern
of SE is to promote a more democratic and inclusive pedagogy in order to provide richer and
authentic sports experiences for boys and girls in the context of physical education (Siedentop,
1994). Thus, within SE classes, children have opportunities to socialize, to make decisions and
enjoy themselves in competitive situations where levels of effort are strongly valued (Carlson
and Hastie, 1997).
These issues related to the social and affective outcomes have been the focus of research on SE
with respect to students’ personal/social development, attitudes, values and motivational responses
(see Hastie et al., 2011, and Wallhead and O’Sullivan, 2005, for reviews). Less research has
concerned the impact of the model on students’ motor performance, although positive results have
been found. Skills’ improvements have been reported by Brown et al. (2004) and by Pritchard et al.
(2008) that also showed positive effects of the SE on students’ overall game performance and
decision-making ability. In addition, Hastie et al. (2009) reported students’ increments in the ability
to select more appropriate tactical solutions.
Although the SE and the TGfU approaches share quite a few concepts in terms of objectives and
pedagogy (Hastie and Curtner-Smith, 2006), TGfU research has paid more attention towards
developing learners’ abilities to play games, emphasizing the need to extend students’ game appreciation
and tactical awareness in order to play the games successfully (Metzler, 2000). Therefore,
research on TGfU has centered almost exclusively on psychomotor and cognitive learning. Indeed,
research has shown that TGfU can improve both students’ decision making and skill execution
(e.g. Allison and Thorpe, 1997; Harrison et al., 2004; Turner, 2003; Turner and Martinek, 1999).
While SE and TGfU are drawn from similar cognitive and constructivist concepts, there are
differences between the two models, and it has been advocated that each model has its own
limitations if applied exclusively and in an isolated way (Curtner-Smith, 2004; Hastie and Curtner-
Smith, 2006). While games in SE are played in small-sided and modified form, SE has an
‘outward-focus on contextualizing the activities in the sport social processes’, and TGfU has an
‘inward focus on players’ game competence’ (Hastie and Curtner-Smith, 2006: 3). Consequently,
research has been forthcoming that shows an interest in hybrid models in which the teacher serves
as a facilitator of learning within a student-centered environment. As noted by Curtner-Smith
(2004) and Hastie and Curtner-Smith (2006), hybrid teaching models that combine SE and TGfU
have the potential to promote in students the ability to understand holistically the games, while still
accomplishing affective goals. Research has stated that this hybrid teaching approach does not
undermine any of the advantages of each model. In fact, the particular strengths of each of the models
seem to fulfill the gaps specific to each of them. Moreover, the main goal of research on hybrid
teaching units (SE and TGfU) has been to provide a description of the teacher’s experiences and
the students’ reactions towards the structure and organization of that unit as to the teaching behaviors
and styles (Hastie and Curtner-Smith, 2006).
Despite these calls, the specificity of tactics within team sports (namely the differentiation
between invasion and non-invasion games) makes it necessary to build models that could attend to
this specificity, which is not taken into consideration by TGfU. The Invasion Games Competence
Model (IGCM) is conceptually structured closely to TGfU, but it also resembles a goal of SE,