Teaching games and sport for understanding: Exploring and reconsidering its relevance in physical education

Steven Stolz, Shane Pill

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    135 Citations (Scopus)


    Over 30 years ago the original teaching games for understanding (TGfU) proposition was published in a special edition of the Bulletin of Physical Education (Bunker and Thorpe, 1982). In that time TGfU has attracted significant attention from a theoretical and pedagogical perspective as an improved approach to games and sport teaching in physical education (PE). It has been particularly championed as a superior alternative to what Kirk (2010) and Metzler (2011) described as a traditional method. Recently, however, one of the TGfU authors suggested that the TGfU premise needs to be revisited in order to explore and rethink its relevance so that pedagogy in PE again becomes a central and practical issue for PE (Almond, 2010), as it has not been as well accepted by PE teachers as it has by academics. In order to review and revisit TGfU and consider its relevance to games and sport teaching in PE this paper outlines two areas of the TGfU proposition: (1) the basis for the conceptualisation of TGfU; (2) advocacy of TGfU as nuanced versions. The empirical-scientific research surrounding TGfU and student learning in PE contexts is reviewed and analysed. This comprehensive review has not been undertaken before. The data-driven research will facilitate a consideration as to how TGfU practically assists the physical educator improve games and sport teaching. The review of the research literature highlighted the inconclusive nature of the TGfU proposition and brought to attention the disparity between researcher as theory generator and teacher practitioner as theory applier. If TGfU is to have improved relevance for teachers of PE more of an emphasis needs to be placed on the normative characteristics of pedagogy that drive this practice within curricula.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)36-71
    Number of pages36
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


    • physical education (PE)
    • research
    • teaching
    • Teaching games for understanding (TGfU)


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