One of the imperative aspects of games-based approaches (GBAs) is the teacher or coach's use of questioning. However, research reports show that both teachers (e.g. McNeill et al., 2008) and coaches (e.g. Harvey et al., 2010; Roberts, 2011) struggle with this aspect of using GBAs. And not only do they struggle with using questions in the first place, when they do, they tend of be low level comprehension or recall questions, ones that largely necessitate a yes no answer, like the one below which is speaking about a players use of space during a small-sided soccer game:
Q: Do you think that 'Player X' ran into a good space?
A: Yes / No
These questions can be easily changed to higher order questions, but, arguably, this requires planning. While planning, it is recommended that teachers and coaches plan 'question starters' linked to the activity to be delivered. Some examples of question starters that may be used to re-construct the above yes /no exchange such as interpretation, elaboration and evaluation, can be seen in bold below in the following exchange, still about off the ball movement in a small-sided soccer game:
Initial question - Interpretation question
Q: What is the significance of 'Player X's' run ahead of the ball?
A1: Well, it meant that this opened up space for another player to move into.
A2: Also, it helped stretch the field so it opened up space between players in the midfield.
Probing question - Elaboration question
Q: Can you tell me a little more about that?
A3: If the play becomes stretched, then this gives us, the team with the ball more space to either dribble into, or have players move into.
Summarizing question - Evaluation question
Q: So what is the main importance of off the ball movement ahead of the ball in this small-sided game?
A1: Stretch the game and create more space in between the player with the ball to make it harder for defender because the play on the ball has more choices.
On face value it would seem that to re-construct the first exchange to the second one was quite an easy process. I can, however, tell you that this took me quite a while to re-construct. As a first step, I would therefore encourage teachers and coaches to pick one of the lessons/sessions they have previously delivered, and have a go at changing the lesson/session (if needed) so it focuses learning within a small-sided and/or conditioned game (see overview of TGfU page and TGfU videos page). Once this has been completed, I would begin to write out a list of questions using the question starters above that link to the specific aspects of what you expect the pupils/athletes to learn in that session. It might take a short while to plan the question starters, but once they are on your plan and they are in your mind, the transition to using higher order questioning through a GBA will be a lot easier.
Harvey, S., Cushion, C. J., & Massa-Gonzalez, A. N. (2010). Learning a new method: Teaching Games for Understanding in the coaches’ eyes. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 15, 361–382.
McNeill, M., Fry J. M., Wright, S., Tan, C., & Rossi, T. (2008). Structuring time and questioning to achieve tactical awareness in games lessons. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 13(3): 231–249.
Roberts, S. J. (2011). Teaching games for understanding: The difficulties and challenges experienced by participation cricket coaches. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 16, 33–48.