Critical Incidents In Teaching And Coaching. a Cognitive Approach To Analyze And Modify Subjective Teaching Theories

Por: U. Hanke.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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In the past, traditional approaches used for training teachers and coaches have concentrated on the analysis of observable behavior. While this approach provides important and useful information on the outside aspects of behavior it gives only limited insight into the reasons, why the teacher and/or coach and his or her students/athletes displayed their behavior.


As a result of the "cognitive shift" in general psychology in the eighties, in a large-scale research project conducted at the Teacher Training College in Heidelberg new methods were developed to analyze the thinking processes occurring during decision making of P.E. teachers and coaches. The main objective of this approach was to develop training materials that could be used during everyday work and thus provide a strongly individualized insight into thinking and decision making patterns. Because mental alertness and the probability to receive valid reports on thinking processes is highest when the interacting partners experience situations of high importance and situations characterized by high emotional involvement, the approach uses self-selected "critical incidents" or problem situations as a starting point. With the help of "structured dialogues" teacher and coaches and their students/athletes can be interviewed right after the critical situation about the thinking processes that occurred during the critical incident. This analysis allows the teacher and/or coach to identify certain patterns, routines or tendencies when solving problems. Consequently he or she will then enter into a process of critical reflection on whether or not the behavior is desirable or whether or not the observable outcomes of his or her reaction are in agreement with the teaching or coaching aims. In addition to using this approach in live-situation video-examples of critical incidents ("video-simulation") can be used requesting the coaches and/or teachers first to react and subsequently to categorize their reactions using their own concepts and terminology.

Discussion/ Conclusions

The continuing use of written training materials in combination with videotapes at many German universities has shown to be a very successful tool in improving teacher and coach education.


  1. Hanke, U. (2002). Critical incidents in coaching. A cognitive approach to analyze and modify subjective coaching theories. Desporto. Investigação & Ciência, 1, 3-19.
  2. Hanke, U. (2003). Research on Physical Education Teacher and Coach Education (published in German) 2001-2002. International Journal of Physical Education - A Review Publication, 40(1), 4-8.
  3. Treutlein, G., Janalik, H., & Hanke, U. (1996). Wie Sportlehrer denken, wahrnehmen, fühlen und handeln (3. Auflage). Köln: Sport und Buch Strauß.



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