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«Analysis of Task Systems in Elementary Physical Education Classes Diana L. Jones Western Illinois University The purpose of this study was to ...»

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Analysis of Task Systems

in Elementary Physical Education Classes

Diana L. Jones

Western Illinois University

The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze task systems in

elementary physical education classes. Two elementary physical education

specialists were observed during 34 classes. Systematic observation strategies

were used to describe and analyze classroom events. Data supported the

existence of managerial and instructional task systems along with an informal social task system. Students complied with managerial tasks; modifications were not evident. Students' responses to instruction were either (a) on the stated task with success or little or no success, (b) upward or downward task modifications, or (c) off-task. Primarily, students stayed on-task whether they were successful or not. Relationships among tasks within lessons indicated that the teachers used a pattern of informing, extending, and applying tasks. A less formal accountability system was evident as children were not involved in the formal exchange of performance for grades.

Managerial, instructional, and social task systems did not operate exclusively but interacted with one another.

To gain a better understanding of the ecological dynamics of physical education classes, the task systems model has been used to analyze and interpret classroom events. The concept of task systems is based primarily on the work of Doyle (1979), who suggested that an ecological model be used as the analytical framework for understanding how classrooms operate. From an ecological perspective, Doyle (1977) described a classroom in terms of "a set of overlapping task structures, each consisting of a goal and operations to achieve that goal and specifying a behavior ecology" (p. 176). In his research, Doyle (1979, 1985,

1986) identified two major task systems in classrooms: (a) managerial or order, and (b) instructional or learning. These task systems provide an organizing reference for interpreting the various events and actions that occur in the classroom.

At times, however, tension exists between the two systems; teachers often become preoccupied with managing or order, which results in an emphasis on accomplishing "work" rather than promoting learning. A good example of this may be the typical math worksheet-students sit quietly in their seats and produce Diana L. Jones is with the Department of Physical Education at Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL 61455.

JONES a multitude of answers to the same type of problems. Order is maintained, and work is accomplished; however,how much learning is actually taking place?

In physical education, too, the teaching-learning process can be viewed as an ecology with three systems: managerial, instructional, and social. Each system is developed around a series of tasks to be performed by students. The interactions among the three systems form the ecology of physical education (Siedentop, 1991). The managerial system includes those tasks that are necessary to create an facilitate an environment where learning and instruction can take place.

Examples of managerial tasks are getting equipment, selecting teams, establishing rules, and moving from one place to another. In contrast, the instructional system involves the presentation and practice of subject matter. These tasks are primarily movement activities or the acquisition of knowledge related to the activity, such as rules and strategy. The social system is primarily directed by students who have their own social agenda. Social tasks involve ways students seek social interactions during class (Siedentop, 1991).

The notion of a task involves four components: (a) the goal or end product to be achieved, (b) a set of operations or procedures used to achieve the goal or end product, (c) resources or conditions that are available to attain the goal or generate the product, and (d) a means of accountability that indicates the importance or significance of the task to the overall operation of the classroom (Doyle, 1985). For example, in physical education classes, a goal or end product may be to perform a legal tennis serve. The set of operations are the critical elements or techniques used to execute the serve and the rules governing serving.

Available resources and conditions are the racket, balls, court, and practice time.

As an accountability measure, students may be required to perform 7 of 10 legal serves to get an A in the class. Simply stated, the task would be to perform 7 out of 10 legal serves using proper technique.

Initially, teachers usually describe managerial and instructional tasks verbally. However, during the course of a class, the actual managerial and instructional tasks are often a result of how the teacher responds to students' efforts.

The actual tasks performed may not match the tasks as they were originally described because the teacher does not demand strict compliance to stated tasks (Siedentop, 1991). In essence, the task model examines a three-stage process where the teacher presents a task to his or her class, students then respond to the task demands, and finally the teacher responds to students, holding or not holding them accountable for the task.

Focus Programmatic research regarding task systems in physical education has been done at The Ohio State University over the past 9 years (Alexander, 1982;

Marks, 1988; Son, 1989; Tinning, 1983; Tousignant, 1982). This study was a step in this chain of programmatic research. The primary purpose was to describe and analyze task systems in elementary physical education classes. Because past research has shown two primary task systems operating in classrooms (i.e., managerial and instructional), this study focused on the unique aspects of each system.

Within the managerial system, three areas were considered. First, how compliant were students to the task (i.e., did they comply or not?)? Second, how TASK SYSTEMS 413 quickly did students comply with managerial task demands? Third, what type of events followed compliance or noncompliance? Within the instructional system, the focus was on the description of the task itself, in particular, the explicitness and length of the task description. Second, student responses to tasks were examined. This involved the number of opportunities to respond and/or the amount of engaged time, students' success rates, and task modifications. Third, consideration was given to the teachers' responses to students and to the consequences for student performance.

A second purpose of this study was to identify relationships among tasks.

These relationships may be within one lesson or across lessons. Movement experiences in elementary physical education should build upon each other so that a child gains a broad movement repertoire. The concepts of extending, refining, combining, and applying skills are integral parts of elementary physical education programs (Rink, 1979). Therefore, it becomes important to describe and analyze not only the tasks but also the relationships among the tasks.

Another purpose of this study was to determine the types of accountability systems existing in elementary physical education classes and how they operate.

As stated earlier, accountability measures indicate the importance or significance of the task to the overall operation of the class or lesson. On the secondary level, the typical focus of accountability for managerial tasks has been on attendance, dress, and being a member in good standing. In contrast, the focus of accountability for instructional tasks has been on and performance. Accountability measures have been both formal and informal (Tousignant, 1982). However, at the elementary level, there is no formal exchange of performance for grades.

Thus, the question to answer is how elementary physical educators keep children on-task during a lesson to ensure learning when there is no formal grade exchange.

In other words, what means were used to facilitate performance in both managerial and instructional areas? In addition, the relationship between student behavior and type of accountability system was examined. Tousignant (1982) noted, "Students behaved differently under different accountability systems, and most of them behaved in such a way that they met the task requirements for which they were formally held responsible by the teacher" (p. 139).

Finally, the task system model "represents teaching-learning as a set of interrelated systems, in which changes in one system are likely to influence behavior in other systems" (Siedentop, 1988, p. 3). Gaining and maintaining the cooperation of students is a primary goal of teachers. To achieve this cooperation in the managerial system, teachers often lessen or eliminate demands in the instructional system (Doyle, 1979, 1986; Siedentop, 1988). Therefore, the final purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between the managerial and instructional task systems.

–  –  –

her reputation as an effective teacher. Sixteen consecutive observations were made of one of her fifth-grade classes. The class met once a week for 5 0 minutes.

During data collection, Ms. Fit taught units in fitness, cooperative games, gymnastics, and basketball.

The second subject, Ms. Strong, was a first-year teacher, having graduated from The Ohio State University the previous year. During her preservice education, Ms. Strong had demonstrated potential as an effective teacher and was recommended by several faculty members to participate in the study. One of her fifth-grade classes, which met every fourth school day for 5 0 minutes, was observed for 18 consecutive classes. Units taught during this time were soccer and gymnastics.

Data Collection Methods

A total of 34 classes were observed over a 4-month period, beginning at the start of the school year and concluding prior to Christmas vacation. Classes were conducted as usual; the researcher assumed the role of a nonparticipant observer. Systematic observation strategies were used to describe and analyze what occurred during each lesson. A detailed account of classroom events through observation systems and field notes, and quantitative measures were obtained for each lesson. Two specific observation systems were used to collect the data: the Rules, Routines, and Expectation (RRE) System (Siedentop & Fink, 1988) and the Task-Structure Observation System.

The RRE System is an observational protocol for recording events related to the development of rules, routines, and expectations in physical education classes at the start of a school year. The RRE System was used for the first four lessons of each teacher to determine the specific rules, routines, and expectations that were established and operated in these classes.

By combining past research (Doyle, 1979; Marks, 1988; Rink, 1979), the researcher developed the Task-Structure Observation System, which focuses on specific classroom tasks and events and provides for the recording of qualitative and quantitative data. The primary focus of the observer is one target student selected randomly at the beginning of each class. The responses of each target student are recorded on observation sheets. However, observer comments and field notes are not limited to the target student as information recorded about other students and the class in general provide a richer picture of the context and events of the lesson.

Three primary categories comprise the Task-Structure Observation System:

(a) the teacher's description of the managerial or instructional task, (b) the target student's response to the specified task, and (c) the teacher's response to and/or the consequence of student behavior. In addition, managerial tasks are further classified on coding sheets as relating to conduct, organization of students or equipment, transition, and/or routine. Instructional tasks are placed in categories of informing, extending, refining, applying, and/or reviewing. The instrument also focuses on quantitative measures, such as opportunities to respond (i.e., a frequency measure) and duration time measures (e.g., the length of the task description, compliance time, and engaged time). A chronograph is used to record time measurements. The Task-Structure Observation System was used for all 34 TASK SYSTEMS 415 The researcher's primary activity during each lesson was to observe, listen, and record events of the class in as much detail as possible on observation coding sheets. In addition, each lesson was either audiotaped or videotaped. After the lesson was completed, the researcher listened to the audiotape or viewed the videotape to fill in any information or details that had been missed on the coding sheets. The chronograph was also used during this time to check the accuracy of the times recorded on coding sheets.

Analysis of the Data After the data were collected through the two observation systems, the qualitative and quantitative measures had to be processed, reduced, and/or calculated to gain information about the tasks. Each aspect of the observation

systems was analyzed separately through this process:

1. Calculation of interobserver agreement measures for RRE and TaskStructure Observation System;

2. Classification of tasks as to type (i.e., managerial or instructional) and function within the managerial and instructional categories;

3. Explicitness and length of task descriptions;

4. Classification of student responses to managerial and instructional tasks and number of discrete opportunities to respond;

5. Examination of students' negotiation strategies;

6. Categorization of events subsequent to managerial tasks and number of occurrences of the various subsequent events;

7. Classification of teacher responses as managerial, instructional, or social;

8. Identification of accountability systems and measures; and

9. Analysis of the relationships between task systems by the identification of managerial and instructional routines and patterns and evidence of a social task system.

Results Interobserver Agreement Measures The first four lessons of each teacher were coded using the RRE System.

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