Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
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©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2021) 20, 110 - 125   DOI: https://doi.org/10.52082/jssm.2021.110

Review article
What Actually Differs between Traditional Teaching and Sport Education in Students’ Learning Outcomes? A Critical Systematic Review
Cristiana Bessa1, Peter Hastie2, Ana Ramos1, Isabel Mesquita1, 
Author Information
1 Centre for Research, Education, Innovation and Intervention in Sport (CIFI2D), Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Portugal
2 Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, United States

Isabel Mesquita
✉ Ph.D. Rua Dr. Plácido Costa, 91, 4200-450 Porto, Portugal
Email: imesquita@fade.up.pt
Publish Date
Received: 09-09-2020
Accepted: 13-12-2020
Published (online): 01-03-2021
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ABSTRACT

This systematic review aimed to examine the main findings concerning to the investigations focused on compare, within Physical Education context, the influence of Sport Education (SE) and Traditional Teaching (TT) on students’ learning outcomes. A literature search was conducted on nine electronic databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, SCOPUS, Academic Search Ultimate, ERIC, Education Source, APA PsycINFO and APA PsycARTICLES). Inclusion criteria were defined before the selection process. Accordingly, were only included articles that (i) were published in peer-reviewed international journals indexed in Journal Citation Reports or Scientific Journal Rankings; (ii) were available in full-text; (iii) were published in English, Portuguese or Spanish; (iv) were performed within Physical Education context; and (v) provided specifically a comparison between the effects of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes. Globally, twenty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria. The manuscripts’ methodological quality was assessed through Downs and Black checklist, with all studies displaying moderate quality. Results showed that comparisons among SE and TT tend to analyze team sports activities sampling high-school students via quasi-experimental designs, with more than half of them were published over the past five years. Also, these investigations typically focused on the differences between both models on the development of personal and social skills, as well as its impact on the motor and cognitive domains. In this respect, although the results tend to point out increases in both SE and TT, superior values are achieved when SE is implemented. The analysis of the teaching-learning process using alternative research methods and designs (i.e., experimental studies, qualitative data, longitudinal analysis, action-research and case studies), longer units with appropriate planning, and the report of model’s fidelity so that robust findings can endorse the teachers’ praxis, must be a concern in future studies.

Key words: Instructional models, physical education, comparative analysis, sport pedagogy, teacher-centered approach, student-centered approach


           Key Points
  • Comparisons among SE and TT tend to analyze team sports activities by sampling high-school students in co-educational classes via quasi-experimental designs.
  • More than half of the studies that compares SE and TT were published over the past five years.
  • Overall, the variables analyzed are related with the development of students’ personal and social skills, as well as its motor and cognitive development.
  • Although the results tend to point out increases in both SE and TT, superior achievements are observed when SE is implemented.
  • Half of the studies did not establish the fidelity of the model implementation.
  • Future studies should consider other methodological procedures and research designs, as well as longer units, in order to deep the understandings about the impact of the different models on students learning outcomes.

INTRODUCTION

Across the last three decades, the research has been investigated on how different teaching models may impact on students’ learning through the building of high-quality learning environments (O'Sullivan, 2013). Retrospectively, Physical Education (PE) evolved across the 1980s in response to the socio-political reform movements that were characteristic of that decade. Accordingly, teaching approaches moved from teacher-centered (e.g., direct instruction model) which were based on behavioristic assumptions, to student-centered (e.g., Sport Education) built upon constructivist and social learning theories (Dyson, 2014; O'Sullivan, 2013). Within a socio-constructivist perspective, the learner is placed at the core of the learning process, playing an active role in building his/her knowledge and developing autonomy and responsibility skills (Perkins, 1999). In this sense, the teacher’s role is readjusted, acting as a facilitator of learning who uses informal and implicit instructional strategies to guide the discovery of the learning process (Goodyear and Dudley, 2015).

Aligned with the socio-constructivist premises, and following the conceptual and practical evolution in PE, the Sport Education (SE) model (Siedentop, 1994) was developed as a learner-centered teaching model. Since its conceptualization, SE has been undeniably a hot topic in the field of PE research. In contrast to teaching-centered approaches that place teachers on ‘center-stage’, and consider learners as motion reproducers, SE aims principally to develop competent (i.e., tactical and technically skilled to participate in game-forms), literate (i.e., aware of sport traditions, rules as well as good and bad sports practices) and enthusiastic (i.e., motivated to preserve the sports culture) sportspersons (Siedentop et al., 2020). In doing so, SE engages concomitantly motor, cognitive, social and emotional domains, all contributing to the holistic development of the learners (Araújo et al., 2014; Bessa et al., 2019; Hastie et al., 2011b; Wallhead and O'Sullivan, 2005).

Overall, SE was designed to recreate the key features of the institutionalized sport context. In this sense, learners usually perform other roles besides player, including for instance coach, team manager, or referee roles. SE, therefore, is a curriculum and instruction model designed to afford an authentic, educational and thereby rich sport experience. Specifically, learning tasks in SE are carefully organized to underline cooperative work, problem-solving, critical reflection, and learner interaction experiences (Siedentop et al., 2020). Due to the wide range and complexity of the learning activities, from a structural viewpoint SE requires seasons of at least 18 lessons. Globally, seasons are designed according to six main characteristics, namely, affiliation (work on common goals), seasons (longer units than typical PE units) formal competition (meaningful games), culminating events (recognition of those who excel), record keeping (built-in feedback) and festivity (celebration) (Siedentop, 1994).

The relevant advantages identified in implementing SE have been attributed to its structural features, such as: (i) the authentic recreation of the sport context (i.e., competitive seasons, formal competition, teams, etc.) which increases the motor, cognitive, and emotional engagement of learners (Mesquita et al., 2014), (ii) the competition, which portrays as a useful educational tool enabling the development of tactical knowledge and game performance (Layne and Hastie, 2014; Mahedero et al., 2015), (iii) the reduced exclusion of learners, by balancing the opportunities of participation through the building of authentic and meaningful competitive game-forms (Farias et al., 2017), and (iv) the learner as an active voice throughout their own learning process and the reinforcement of teamwork which, in turns, promotes the development of personal and social competences (Smither and Zhu, 2011).

Given the high number of studies that have sought to empirically test the purported benefits of SE, systematic reviews have been conducted to summarize the key research findings, support practitioner’s pedagogical intervention, and guide future research avenues (e.g., Araújo et al., 2014; Bessa et al., 2019; Hastie et al., 2011b; Wallhead and O'Sullivan, 2005). In this respect, the systematic reviews undertaken so far have emphasized the positive benefits of SE in improving learners’ responsibility, cooperation, and trust skills (Bessa et al., 2019). Also, systematic reviews have depicted how SE expanded enormously over the last five years to include all learning domains: physical, social, cognitive, and affective (Evangelio et al., 2018), as well as how studies focusing on SE have tended to progress to more sophisticated designs and larger sample sizes (Hastie et al., 2011b).

Despite the extensive research focus on SE, the Traditional Teaching approach (TT), which is linked to a more teacher-centered approach, is also frequently adopted by PE teachers (Gubacs-Collins, 2015). The TT involves a teaching style where decisions concerning planning, instruction, and assessment are made by teachers with little or none student input (Mosston and Ashworth, 2008). Thereby, within the TT, the teacher is completely in charge of all instructional decisions about didactical content development, class management, learner accountability and learner engagement (Metzler, 2017). Thus, in order to potentiate task efficacy and the time-class available, the teacher assumes full control of events by defining rules and behavioral patterns that learners must follow. Contrary to how SE structures its classes, the TT classes are typically structured through time-periods, with the teacher presenting the expected movement patterns. In this sense, the motor and cognitive domains are highlighted due to its assumption that some level of proficiency in elementary motor skills is necessary before proficient engagement in more complex game-forms (Rink, 1993).

Overall, the TT has a preference for high-structured learning tasks, as it allows close observation by the teacher who critically examines the learners’ movement patterns and skills performed, reinforces correct responses, and gives corrective feedback when incorrect responses are identified (Metzler, 2017). Learners are thus expected to replicate movement patterns, answering to specific, and punctual questions. This teaching approach involves, thereby a low-cognitive engagement as students’ cognitive processes are only recruited when they receive information from the teacher and internalize it (McMorris, 1998).

Given its instructional and structural features (e.g., skills-drills, lines or circuit organization), the TT is largely recognized to be efficient in promoting active participation of learners due to its repetitive practice emphasis (Hastie et al., 2011a). In addition, it is seen as helpful in motor domain as it focuses on developing motor skills through progressions (e.g., close motor skills), as well as in earlier stages of learning (i.e., novice learners) (French et al., 1991; Sweeting and Rink, 1999). Finally, the frequent and ongoing teacher’s feedback featured of TT has been identified as an important tool to provide in-time correction of a learners’ movements and actions (Metzler, 2017).

With the purpose of understanding the influence of SE and TT on the learning outcomes of different domains (e.g., game performance, affiliation, enjoyment, etc.), some studies have been conducted to contrast both models (e.g., Browne et al., 2004; Rocamora et al., 2019). Commonly, these studies claim a superiority of SE over TT. However, despite the well-reported benefits from SE, its advantages in comparison to TT are still under-developed. The novelty and scientific contribution of this systematic review grounds precisely on the need to synthesize evidence for extending and update the comprehension about what it currently knew, and what remains unclear in the literature. By doing so, this review also avoids the ongoingly false speculation and / or overly optimistic assumptions not supported by scientific evidence, while guiding future research avenues.

Previous reviews about the impact of SE have irrefutably contributed to summarize the available evidence concerning the main aims of PE, namely fitness and tactical awareness (Hastie et al., 2011b), students’ learning (Araújo et al., 2014), students’ competence, literacy and enthusiasm (Hastie and Wallhead, 2016), learning outcomes (Evangelio et al., 2018), and more recently, students’ personal and social development (Bessa et al., 2019). Accordingly, due to the progressive amount of investigations dedicated to compare the influence SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes, summaries of the main empirical research findings are constantly required to update our understanding about the effects of its practical application. Also, knowing the benefits and weaknesses of each teaching model is possible to extend the comprehension of their effects on students’ learning domains, as well as the understanding of how the teaching models might be used and combined to optimize learning processes. Despite many systematic reviews have summarized the main findings about the impact of different teaching approaches, up to this date were not find any quantitative or qualitative review that has specifically compared, contrasted, and debated the impact of SE and TT on students’ learning which reinforces the innovative character of the present review.

Aligned with the aforementioned rational, this study sought to assess the main findings concerning to the investigations devoted to compare the influence of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes. Four research questions supported this review, namely:

      (Q1) Which contexts were predominant in investigations that aimed to compare SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes?
      (Q2) What were the most frequently variables analyzed when comparing a SE season and a TT unit?
      (Q3) What were the methods predominantly used to compare the influence of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes?
      (Q4) Have these investigations been concerned about established the fidelity of the models’ implementation?

METHODS

Data sources and search strategy

This systematic review followed the recommendations stated by Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) (Moher et al., 2015). An exhaustive and systematic search was conducted through nine scientific literature databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, SCOPUS, Academic Search Ultimate, ERIC, Education Source, APA PsycINFO and APA PsycARTICLES) for papers published up to, and including, June 2020. The English Boolean data types “AND” and “OR” were used to combine the following terms: “physical education”, “sport education”, “direct instruction”, “traditional teaching”, “traditional instruction”, “traditional model”, “multiactivity instruction”, “instructional approaches” and “pedagogical models”. Afterwards, the reference lists of the selected articles were screened for potentially suitable articles to include in the review. The study selection was independently carried out by two experienced authors to minimize any potential selection bias. Both were knowledgeable of instructional models in PE. The reviewers were not blinded to the authors’ list, institutions, or journals of publication. Any discrepancies were resolved by consensus. Also, study abstracts that did not offer adequate information considering the eligibility criteria predefined were retrieved for full-text evaluation.

Inclusion/exclusion criteria

Following the recommendations of Simonsohn et al. (2013) eligibility criteria were defined before the electronic search. Also, to promote the quality assurance, and given the possibility of it had not been subjected to independent and peer-review, books, book chapters, conference abstracts, thesis, and dissertations were excluded from analysis. Aligned with this, articles published in non-peer-reviewed journals and/or those not indexed in Journal Citation Reports or Scientific Journal Rankings were also disregarded. Also, based on the study’s purpose, the investigations that did not measure specifically the influence of TT and SE on students’ learning outcomes, were not conducted within the PE context, or used exclusively qualitative data, were also excluded. Thus, peer-reviewed studies were included according to the following criteria: (i) provide a comparison between SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes, (ii) were available in full-text, and (iii) were written in English, Portuguese or Spanish language. Notwithstanding, after reading the titles and the abstracts, articles were included or excluded based on the criteria above mentioned.

Data extraction and codification of the studies

Content analysis was conducted on the manuscripts selected to record authors’ names, year of publication, study context (i.e., countries, interventional context, sport type), study design (i.e., length of the units/season) sample characteristics (i.e., participants, grade and class composition), statistical methods, variables assessed, fidelity of the model implemented, and main findings.

Methodological quality assessment

An evaluation of the methodological quality of the selected studies was accomplished using the validated Downs and Black (1998) checklist. This scale enables researchers to highlight the strongest and weakness points of each study and assess both cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations (Bento, 2014). The checklist includes 27-items that aim to assess the reporting, validity, and statistical power of the published manuscripts. Specifically, items 1-10 relate to reporting, items 11-13 refer to external validity, items 14-26 relate to internal validity and item-27 attends the statistical power. The quality of the studies was classified adapting the criteria applied by Grgic et al. (2018). Accordingly, studies were classified as “good quality” if they scored 20-27 points, “moderate quality”, if they scored 11-19 points, and “poor quality” if they scored < 11 points. Two independent researchers evaluated the studies selected. The final ratings were discussed among the research team (first author and co-authors), with discussion and agreement for any observed differences. No study was excluded due to a significantly low-quality assessment score.

RESULTS

Studies selection

The search stages and the study selection procedures are depicted in Figure 1. A total of 28 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the present systematic review. Detailed information of the studies selected are presented in alphabetical order in Table 2. With the aim of achieving the study’s purpose, the review categories were defined a priori (Harris et al., 2014). These categories are described in Table 1 and used as labels in Table 2.

Methodological quality

The average score on the Downs and Black checklist was 13 (range 11-14). All studies included were assessed as having moderate methodological quality. Specifically, one study was scored with 14 points, seventeen studies with 13 points, seven studies with 12 points and three studies with 11 points (Table 3).

Overview of articles and study background

Research dedicated to compare the influence of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes took place mostly in Spain (n = 12; 43%) and in the United States (n = 8; 29%), followed by Portugal (n = 3; 11%), China (n = 2; 7%), Australia (n = 2; 7%) and the United Kingdom (n = 1; 3%).

Overall, throughout the SE competitive seasons, team-sports (such as volleyball, soccer, or handball) were frequently studied (n = 22; 79%), whereas only six studies (21%) incorporated individual sports (e.g., track in field).

Most of the studies were conducted for less than 18 lessons (15; 54%) in the units/seasons examined. Specifically, 13 studies (46%) analyzed units/seasons for more than 18 lessons, 8 studies (28%) extended between 13 and 17 lessons, with the remaining 7 studies (25%) examining between 8 and 12 lessons. Most investigations recorded data only from students (27; 96%).

Globally, the studies selected encompassed a sample of 3281 students (1615 boys and 1538 girls, with two studies not specifying the gender of 128 participants) and 46 teachers (7 were preservice teachers). Concerning the grade level examined, the high-school (i.e., ninth to twelfth grade) was typically investigated (17; 61%), followed by middle-school (i.e., sixth to eighth grade, 9; 32%), and the remaining 2 studies (7%) were conducted in the university. Also, 26 studies (93%) were in a co-educational PE context, with 2 studies (7%) examining only boys in a single-sex context. Class composition was not reported in 2 of the selected studies (7%). Of interest, none of the studies reported including participants with disabilities.

Variables

The Figure 2 provides an illustration about the range of variables examined by the studies included in this systematic review.

Methodological procedures to collect data

Apart from two articles that resorted to a mixed method (Browne et al., 2004; Xu et al., 2019) (7%), all studies selected followed a quantitative approach (26; 93%). Most of the studies (21; 75%) used a quasi-experimental, pre-test and post-test design, to compare SE and TT. The remaining 7 studies (25%) utilized an experimental design. The use of questionnaires (20; 54%) was the most reported instrument in the extracted studies. Other data sources included systematic observation (5; 13%), accelerometers (4; 11%), written tests (3; 8%), students’ interviews (2; 5%), critical incidents (1; 3%), body composition measures (1; 3%) and teacher evaluations (1; 3%). Data collection from the mixed-methods study combined the use of interviews, written tests, and questionnaires.

Fidelity of the models implemented

In 15 of the selected studies (54%), the fidelity of the models implemented was reported. That is, the authors performed the validation of the model applied presenting a detailed description of the program and curricular elements of the unit (Hastie and Casey, 2014). In the remaining 13 studies (46%), the authors presented only a description of the program or curricular elements of the unit, failing to carry out the model validation. Accordingly, an assessment of instruction according to the accepted standards for each model was not confirmed.

DISCUSSION

This review sought to summarize and examine the main findings from the studies that compared the influence of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes, in order to provide directions for future research and practice. Overall, studies tended to analyze Spanish and American data, as well team sports activities with high-school samples. Also, investigations focused typically on the differences between both models on the enhancement of personal and social skills and motor and cognitive factors. From a methodological viewpoint, the studies were most likely to adopt quasi-experimental designs, in which half of the studies did not report the fidelity of the model implemented.

Findings about studies background

The comparative research between SE and TT included in this systematic review was published between 2004 and 2020 with an increasing number of publications over the last five years. Specifically, more than half of the studies were carried out between 2015 and 2020. Back in 2005, Wallhead and O'Sullivan (2005) called precisely for comparative studies. Although authors have not immediately consider these suggestions (Hastie et al., 2011b), researchers are currently showing interest in this subject. Specifically, the pertinence of these theme is justified by the need to (i) expand knowledge about the models and their differentiated effects on learning variables or school levels, (ii) adopt different methodologies or statistical procedures, (iii) implement in other countries or contexts, and (iv) overcome the limitations identified in previous studies.

Although scientific investigations have also been developed in other countries, namely in Portugal, Australia, China and United Kingdom, most of the reviewed studies used Spanish or US data. This findings is congruent with the outcomes of previous reviews (Bessa et al., 2019; Evangelio et al., 2018), despite the undeniable importance of expanding the impact of SE to another contexts and cultures. However, in reason of the flexibility demonstrated by SE, we strongly emphasize the relevance of investigate the differences among schools, teachers, sport season, instead of countries (Curtner-Smith et al., 2021). Accordingly, future investigations could address this issue.

Overall, the findings revealed that when comparing the students’ learning outcomes in a SE and TT season/unit, the high- and middle-school students in co-educational classes were the most studied. In fact, we did not find any investigation within elementary school settings that specifically compares TT with SE. In this respect, despite the difficulties of implementing SE in the earliest grade levels (Layne and Hastie, 2016), the research has been suggested potential for introducing SE in the elementary education (Gutierrez et al., 2014; Layne and Hastie, 2013; Layne and Hastie, 2016; Martínez de Ojeda et al., 2019). From the above, and for a better perception of the impact of different teaching approaches at early ages, we recommend that future investigations develop studies in primary education that provide comparisons between SE and TT. Additionally, the implementation of other research designs, such as action-research or case studies, could be adopted. Indeed, given its potential to interpret and contextualize in-depth a particular and complex phenomenon (in this case, the impact of SE throughout all learning stages), the use of action-research or case studies could enable to move forward on sport pedagogy research field.

Consistent with other reviews involving SE (Araújo et al., 2014; Bessa et al., 2019; Hastie et al., 2011b), team sports (basketball, volleyball, handball, soccer, ultimate frisbee and ringo) are frequently more investigated than individual sports (table tennis, fitness and track in fields). For this reason, there is the possibility of undervaluing different results from studies utilizing individual sports. Moreover, such research tendency displays quite a paradoxical on. That is, given the nature and purpose of team sports, the personal and social skills are inherently needed and developed over the practice. In contrast, individual sport activities do not implicitly promote the enhancement of personal and social skills. However, these skills are equally needed in individual sports and should be largely examined, particularly as SE is exclusively a team-based curriculum model.

Findings about the development of students’ personal and social skills

When studies compared the influence of both teaching models on students’ learning outcomes, one of the most analyzed dimensions was the development of students’ personal and social skills. Although PE is widely recognized as contributing to students’ motor development and healthy lifestyles, it has also played a crucial role on the development of positive attitudes and values that immensely contribute to personal and social students development (Hardman et al., 2014; Weiss, 2011). In fact, pupils endowed with superior personal and social skills acquired throughout their formal education are seen as being successful learners (Barr and Lewin, 1994; Sibley and Etnier, 2003) who smoothly integrate into society and transition easily to adulthood (Taggart, 1988; Wright and Craig, 2011).

Among the studies examined, the following variables were identified relative to the development of personal and social skills: autonomy (e.g., Cuevas et al., 2015); motivation (e.g., Cuevas et al., 2016), competence, relatedness (e.g.,Viciana et al., 2020), enjoyment/satisfaction (e.g., Browne et al., 2004), sportsmanship (e.g., Méndez-Gimenez et al., 2015), physical self-concept (Fernandez-Rio et al., 2013), cooperation (e.g.,Viciana et al., 2020), friendship (e.g., Rocamora et al., 2019), group cohesion (e.g., Kao, 2019), self - efficacy, peer social acceptance (Luna et al., 2020a), emotional intelligence, social anxiety, subjective well-being (Luna et al., 2020b), and affect (Perlman, 2010).

An overview of the variables examined in the different studies (namely, competency, enjoyment, relatedness, and friendship), suggest a tendency for their increase regardless of the model applied. A possible explanation for such findings regards to the fact that these variables are generally associated with effective teaching, and specifically linked to the teacher’s pedagogical effectiveness (Stronge et al., 2011). In this sense, it is worthwhile to emphasize that the pedagogical approach used by a teacher can be more effective than a good model (Rink, 1993). Indeed, independent of the teaching approach, the teacher should have pedagogical competencies with respect to class management, discipline, climate or instruction, thus being able to use different strategies that enable him/her to respond appropriately to students’ current needs (Casey et al., 2020).

On the other hand, motivation and autonomy were variables consistently higher in SE seasons. These results are possibly due to the structural characteristics of the model (e.g., competition as an educational tool, learner as an active core in the learning process) in enhancing these competencies. Moreover, there was a tendency of not finding differences between both models (or finding a decrease after a SE season) in variables associated with discipline (i.e., following rules, respect or helping others). Two main reasons can help to interpret these findings. First, these variables are mainly associated with a teacher’s pedagogical effectiveness and not specifically related to the potential of each teaching model. Second, we must not confuse basic concerns, such as “helping others”, with collaborative learning (organization by teams, group affiliation, etc.).

Findings about students’ motor and cognitive development

Another dimension commonly examined by comparing the impact of SE and TT on students’ learning outcomes relates with the motor and cognitive domains. Measures included physical activity (e.g., Rocamora et al., 2019; Wahl-Alexander and Chomentowski, 2018), technical performance (e.g., Hastie et al., 2013; Xu et al., 2019), and game performance (e.g., Pritchard et al., 2008). Sport specific content knowledge was also measured (e.g., Browne et al., 2004; Pereira et al., 2016).

The results portrayed by the abovementioned indicators tend to point out increases in SE and TT, however higher values are observed when SE is implemented. This finding suggests that, even with more time spent by students managing their teams and assuming different roles, there are significant learning gains resulting from these cooperative team practices. Compared to TT, from a technical viewpoint, the instructional interactions promoted by SE intertwined with the students’ engagement with the subject matter (MacPhail et al., 2008) seems to display a positive impact on students’ technical improvements (Pereira et al., 2016). Also, within physical activity, it was noted that even without direct teacher control, the features of involvement (more cooperation, autonomy, responsibility, mutual engagement) enhances student commitment. This finding supports the assumption that competition and collaboration are crucial to provide meaningful stimulus to the students. With regards to specific sport content knowledge, the perceived advantage of using SE arises through greater cognitive involvement of students during the teaching-learning process. Possibly, this is a consequence of how the model is (i) conceptualized (i.e., student-centered), (ii) structured (e.g., authentic recreation of sport context) and didactically conceived (i.e., using guide discovery to enhance problem-solving and decision-making).

Findings about methodological issues

In terms of study design, the influence of each teaching model on students’ learning outcomes has been typically conducted using quasi-experimental (nonrandomized controlled design), pre-test and post-test designs. This finding is in agreement with other reviews involving SE (e.g., Araújo et al., 2014; Bessa et al., 2019; Chu and Zhang, 2018). Since the majority of the investigations are conducted within the educational context, the already formed classes in schools may partly explain the difficulty to randomize the participants what consequently justifies the scarce use of experimental designs, broadly recognized as the highest-quality designs (Seel, 2012). Despite the undeniable contributions of the included pre- and post-test design investigations, these only identified the final performance levels achieved by students. That is, these studies did not include access to the dynamic teaching-learning process developed in the classroom, the social agendas of the students, or the teaching strategies used over time. Only through the understanding of these pedagogical dynamics it would be possible to comprehend in-depth the teaching-learning process and guide the implementation of future pedagogical models. In this sense, the present systematic review reinforces the call of Hastie and Mesquita (2016), who highlighted the need to analyze the teaching-learning process, the suggestion of Hastie et al. (2011b) to conduct experimental studies, as well as the recommendation of Araújo et al. (2014) to carry out longitudinal studies.

While the recommended length of a SE season, at the high- and middle-school levels, is a minimum of 18 lessons (Siedentop et al., 2020), most studies did not reach this target. Despite the positive results achieved by the SE, units of longer duration could lead to significant differences between the models analyzed. Concerning SE, seasons need to be long enough to allow meaningful experiences, particularly since SE has more to accomplish (Siedentop, 1994). Therefore, considering the main SE’s assumptions, to succeed and ensure more reliable results, future research must prioritize appropriate planning and designing of the units/seasons.

Although the exclusion of qualitative studies is in line with the purposes of this systematic review, once qualitative data disable the metric comparison among learning outcomes, we recommend that future review articles focus on other research questions that enable the inclusion of qualitative studies. In fact, qualitative analysis could help to understand the process of the change inherent to learning, as well the perceptions and feelings of students and teachers when SE and/or TT are implemented.

Findings about the fidelity of the models’ implementation

Regarding the fidelity of the implementation, Hastie and Casey (2014) considered that for an accurate and complete understanding of a study’s results, the methods section should include a rich description of the curricular elements of the unit, a detailed validation of model implementation, and a comprehensive description of the program context. Even though the research highlights the importance of reporting the fidelity of the model implemented (Ko et al., 2006), fourteen studies presented only a description of the program and curricular elements of the unit. This gap in teaching models research has already been mentioned by different authors (e.g., Bessa et al., 2019; O'Donnell, 2008). Accordingly, the present systematic review emphasizes that the assessment of the model’s fidelity must be a concern in future research because (i) it allows readers to moderate the relationship between an intervention and its outcomes, and additionally (ii) its assessment may prevent potentially false conclusions.

Concerning the analysis of the methodological quality, all the selected studies were identified with moderate quality (i.e., scored among 11 and 19 points) (Grgic et al., 2018). Despite this trend, the average score was relatively low (i.e., 13-points out of 27-points). This finding suggests that caution should be applied when interpreting the results of each study in order to avoid potentially false conclusions which may be introduce a certain bias in the PE literature. Additionally, the Downs and Black scoring criterion clarify that if the information provided in the study does not explicitly state a certain requested methodology for a particular item, it must be scored as not satisfying the criterion what could also justifies the low scoring. Specifically, the methodological rating criteria that were most frequently not satisfied in the included studies were related to blinding, randomization, power, representativeness of the sample group, and the adjustment for confounding factors in data analysis.

By comparing the main findings of the investigations dedicated to contrast the practical implementation of antagonist models (i.e., teacher-centered vs student-centered) on students’ learning outcomes, it is noted a clear and positive expression of SE over TT. Nevertheless, far beyond the traditional idea of comparing models, tendentially favoring one in detriment of other, a broadly perspective is currently required so that the combined use of the strengths of each model can help to solve the unpredictable challenges inherent to a teaching-learning process. To achieve this integrative perspective, firstly models should be understood as pedagogical tools and at the service of learning, and we must counter the “one-size-fits-all” approach since the idiosyncratic nature of contexts, students, and teaching content requires the intertwining use of more formal and/or informal strategies (Hastie and Mesquita, 2016). Absolutist perspectives must be thus avoided (Entwistle and Entwistle, 1991) in favor of the relativistic ones, in which multiple possibilities complement each other and are appropriate to the particular stage of students learning.

A limitation that should be recognized in the current investigation refers to the inclusion of investigations exclusively conducted within PE context, which might limit our understanding about how the comparison of both models can impact on students learning within other informal learning environments (e.g., Wahl-Alexander and Morehead, 2017).

CONCLUSION

This study summarizes the main findings of the research that compares the impact of TT and SE on students’ learning outcomes. Although TT continues to be widely used by PE teachers, students seem not to show increments in their learning when this teaching model is applied. In fact, when compared to a TT implementation, SE tends to achieve superior results in all the dimensions considered, namely personal and social skills, technical performance, game performance, sport specific content knowledge, and physical activity as well. Moreover, although SE shows a superior contribution to the development of personal and social skills, it does not prove to be inferior on its contribution to the motor and cognitive domains. This finding is aligned with the current requirements of democratic societies where students are more attracted to learning when they are invited to make decisions and solve problems autonomously. In fact, this trend seems to endow a greater students’ commitment with learning, as well as a greater awareness of their difficulties and needs.

Finally, despite SE providing to be crucial in meeting the student's educational requirements, it is worthwhile to highlight that TT displays some benefits and therefore the idea that it must not be implemented needs to be clarified. Future research must prioritize the analysis of the teaching-learning process using alternative research methods and designs (i.e., experimental studies, qualitative data, longitudinal analysis, action-research, and case studies). Moreover, in order to extend our comprehension about the impact of the different models on students’ learning outcomes longer units with an appropriate, well-conducted, and ongoingly evaluated planning in which models’ fidelity are assessed, must be a concern in future investigations.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work was supported by Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) [grants number SFRH/BD/121421/2016 and SFRH/BD/126387/2016]. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Cristiana Bessa
Employment: Lecture at Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Portugal. PhD student at Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Portugal.
Degree: MSc
Research interests: Instructional models, physical education, volleyball.
E-mail: cbessa@fade.up.pt
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Peter Hastie
Employment: Professor at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA.
Degree: PhD
Research interests: Instructional models and physical education.
E-mail: hastipe@auburn.edu
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Ana Ramos
Employment: PhD Student at Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Portugal.
Degree: MSc
Research interests: Sport pedagogy, performance analysis, instructional models, volleyball
E-mail: anagracinda93@gmail.com
 

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Isabel Mesquita
Employment: Professor at Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Portugal.
Degree: PhD
Research interests: Coaching, instructional models, physical education, volleyball.
E-mail: imesquita@fade.up.pt
 
 
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