Teaching academics like athletics?


Sometimes students wish academic classes were more like performance based sports, but how would it work? How do they respond differently to coaching for physical skill versus teaching a cognitive skill?

Warm ups

In athletics students spend time warming up with exercise routines before hitting the field to actually perform the sport. Why. To stretch their muscles  and slowly raise the heart rate. These routines are to loosen joints, which help to decrease injuries, and increase blood flow because the stress of sports requires more oxygen. The warm up prepares the body to be pushed beyond normal  physical activity.

in a class room teachers typically use warm-ups as a classroom management technique to get students quiet and focused. Sometimes they also serve as a daily assessment to identify students that are falling behind. In an upper level academic class, there are typically no warm-ups. Why?  Learning is a class is not beyond normal mental activity.no warm-ups.  are often disposed of as a waste of time. 

Practice versus initial learning

With coaching the emphasis in on practice. after the warm up, the coach watches the students practice most of the time. The emphasis is on instruction to master new skills. Although, there is time to practice in class students are expected to perform newly learned skills on their own at home without the teacher present.  The teacher requires more unsupervised effort than the coach does.

Effort versus attentiveness

Coaches watch students to assess skill level, to make sure they are exerting effort and to ensure they are not goofing off. They often depend on other students to help them with this, as the athletic classes are typically larger. Making more effort at running increases a student’s ability in track. Making more effort in math, may allow a student to solve problems faster, but will not result in learning how to find derivatives of an equation. After all this is a procedure uncovered by someone older and more educated than the students.

Teachers  most often watch students to make sure they are behaving properly. There are some visible cues to indicate comprehension, but students do not always show these.  The student must concentrate to master academic skills and attentiveness is not always observable. However, disruptive students almost always detract from instruction. Teachers may set up a systems in which the students who are advancing through class faster help struggling students. However, they usually let students seek help and give it as they see fit. Teachers cannot tell precisely what skills students have mastered until they see the assigned work. So a lot of assignments have to be made.

Obvious versus out-of-sight accomplishments

Instruction on coaching indicates feedback is given to show that the coach cares rather than to let students know how well they are performing because athletes already know this.[1] They constantly watch what others are doing, comparing themselves to others. They tend to copy those who perform the best.

In a class room, copying the work of the best performer in class won’t help any. Students must master the thinking processes themselves. The ability to learn is basically an invisible skill, which each student must be able to do on their own. Finally, students are not always sure if they have mastered new skills. Sometimes they transpose two different procedures – especially in math and foreign languages. So the teacher must be constantly asking question and quizzing students in order to provide feedback to show students how well they are doing.

So if you are considering teaching academics like athletics, think again. There are a few commonalities between the two, but it will work no better than having students sit in a circle and learn the strategy for a game without ever practicing.

[1] Coaching Principles, (2012) http://www.asep.com/courses/ASEP_Previews




This entry was posted in Education trends and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Teaching academics like athletics?

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Two different types of learning…

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