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Blake Richardson
Organising and Planning

Taking the Complexity Out of Games-Based Learning

Three coaches from different sports provide examples of how games-based approaches to learning (GBA) can be used to increase participants’ game sense by developing their powers of tactical and strategic thinking

If games-based learning is to become more widely used by coaches to improve the skills of their participants, then a more simplified approach to educating coaches on the practical application of games-based theory must be found.

Zone of Proximal Development, Social Constructivism, Complex Learning Theory, Constraints-Led Approach: use of such scholarly terms only serves to put the frighteners on grass-roots coaches who may previously have been labouring under the misapprehension that GBA stood for the Great Britain Athletics!

If coach developers and online industry bloggers are to pique rather than erode coaches’ interest, they must provide multiple and varied examples that illustrate clearly how games-based coaching – used, ideally, in conjunction with an appropriate framework as a handy reference tool – can work in practice.

The present state of affairs is that coaches lack confidence in their ability to design games that align with specific learning outcomes.

They may wholeheartedly champion the philosophy that participants should be encouraged to make decisions independently, but consider their bank of knowledge on learning theory inadequate, preventing them from successfully analysing individual development trajectories; and preventing them too from knowing how and when to make appropriate modifications to games to make them more or less challenging to further optimise learning potential. 

Heck, even reading that paragraph will be enough to scare off many coaches, I would imagine.

And that’s before they proceed to the second stage of the process – the use of constructive questioning – which is just as critical to the success or failure of achieving learning objectives.

In summary, unless more of a concerted effort is made to support coaches’ understanding of GBA through the use of explicit examples, the chances of the practice becoming established at the lower end of the coaching pyramid will remain nothing more than a pipe dream.

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Blake Richardson