Philosophy of Teaching Games for Understanding
The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) approach was developed by researchers at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom to tap into children’s inherent desire to play. Using ideas embedded within movement education, Bunker and Thorpe (1982) developed the idea of TGfU around teaching kids games by playing games. Lessons that use a TGfU approach start off by playing the game first and then building out game appreciation, tactical understanding, and skill development from the initial game. This way, students have a richer understanding of why and how which better enables them to transfer their knowledge and skills back into the game.
With the use of tactical problems and solutions that transcend a variety of games as the backbone of this approach, students not only understand what they need to know to be successful in games, but perhaps more importantly, when and why to make certain decisions in dynamic game contexts. The TGfU model is meant to not only create better and more knowledgeable game players, but also to motivate participants while taking part in a variety of games.
By adopting an “I can” approach, students take part in representative games that are developmentally appropriate for their current skill level. Once they have developed a better understanding of the basic elements of the game, students are better prepared and motivated to invest the necessary time and energy in enhancing their technical skills. Students also develop a better understanding of how their skills can then be transferred back into games.
Recent approaches to TGfU have advocated for a thematic approach to teaching games. Rather than teach specific sport units (e.g., volleyball unit, soccer unit), students gain the skills and knowledge of a variety of games associated with four game categories: (a) target (e.g., curling, bowling), (b) striking/ fielding (e.g., cricket, baseball), (c) net/wall (e.g., volleyball, tennis), and (d) invasion (e.g., soccer, basketball). The categories represent games that are similar in structure. By exposing students to the primary rules, fundamental skills, and tactical problems associated with each games category, students become literate in a variety of games, not just ones chosen by the teacher. For example, if a student understands the basic premise behind maintaining possession of an object in an invasion game (e.g., use short passes, shield the ball, support the player with the ball), this will help he/she play a variety of invasion games where these tactical solutions transfer between similar games (e.g., soccer, field hockey, European handball, basketball).
For more information about TGfU, go to www.tgfu.org.