Group work in physical education: Exploring the interconnectedness of theoretical approaches and practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Dean Barker
  • Tristan Wallhead
  • Sheri Brock
  • Vicky Goodyear
  • Chantal Amade-Escot

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • University of Wyoming
  • Auburn University
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Toulouse


Student group work is a central feature of many contemporary pedagogical approaches to teaching physical education. Despite this proliferation, our understanding of the teaching-learning dynamics inherent in group work remains limited and has tended to be under-theorized. The purpose of this paper was to examine different theoretical approaches to group work to identify similarities and differences and consequently provide insights and recommendations into ways of using group work as a pedagogical strategy. Four theoretical approaches to group work models were described in detail with brief empirical examples used to illustrate aspects to which each approach draws attention. The examination demonstrates conceptual overlap, elaboration and distinctions between the theoretical approaches related to: (i) content knowledge; (ii) engaging learners; (iii) the teacher's role; and (iv) group composition. Meta-theoretical discussions of teaching strategies such as group work generate important discourse on the potential for the development of effective pedagogical practice.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Teaching in Physical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Cooperation, Interaction, Joint action, Meta-theory, Pedagogy, Status