From Early Childhood To Late Adolescence: Social Learning In Physical Education

Por: Markus Gerber e Uwe Puhse.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The development of social competence is one of the most important areas in the process of socialization. From this idea
arises the question how sport can contribute to the socialization of participants. According to our evaluation of
Petermann/Petermann’s model of social competence (1989) including intra- and interpersonal skills, physical activity
seems to be particularly beneficial when it takes place in an educational environment and when it includes social
learning targets (Pühse/Gerber 2002a). Furthermore, physical activity does not have a functional effect on the
interpersonal skills of athletes. There was even a slight tendency towards higher levels of professionalization, lower
standards of sportsmanship and moral reasoning of athletes when they were compared to "non-athletes". On the other
hand, promising results arose when sport and physical education programs had a focus on social learning. Generally,
participants’ levels of sportsmanship, social attitudes, moral reasoning and observed prosocial behaviors improved
under these circumstances. By contrast, a metaanalytic survey proved that physical activity even has conducive
outcomes on the intrapersonal skills (self-concept) when there is no accent on social learning. Nevertheless, it is
important to remember that the nature of the socializing effects depends largely on the experiences people make while
taking part in physical activity and sport. Therefore, social learning can be particularly helpful in settings where highand
low-skilled students come together (e.g. physical education classes) in order to prevent detrimental outcomes on
self-concept of underachievers.

During the last two decades, numerous researchers have developed models dealing with social and cooperative learning.
These concepts all include interesting and well-founded advice for the realization of social learning in sport and
physical education. On the other hand, they are all rather general than age specific. For that reason, developmental
aspects of social learning are often not taken into consideration even though they have been defined in the specialized
literature. The main goal of this project is to find an appropriate way to accentuate and to promote the social dimension
of sport in physical education classes. We hope that a practical guide will help to reduce the reserve of PE teachers with
regard to the implementation of social learning. The theoretical framework comprises five characteristics that can be
expressed by the following questions: 1. Why is social learning an important part of PE? 2. What are the age-specific
features of children and adolescents? 3. What kind of social learning targets do exist? 4. Can these social learning
targets be classified according to the developmental levels? 5. How can the theoretical framework be translated into

Founded on the work of Piaget, Kohlberg and Selman we distinguish between five developmental levels (age 4-7; 7-10;
10-12; 12-15; 15-18). Based on these age-specific features, a practical handbook of social learning was elaborated.
Plenty of social learning targets have been determined that are relevant for the acquisition of social behavior in the
setting of PE (e.g. perspective and role-taking, role distance, ambiguity, self-competence etc.). These operationalized
social learning targets were then classified according to the characteristics of the age-groups outlined above. Finally,
these theoretical findings were used in order to create numerous examples for the practice in the gym. By means of this
age-specific approach, we hope to enhance the effectiveness of social learning in PE.

The developmental levels are not conceptualized as rigid categories that simply attribute specific skills to certain age
groups. They should rather be considered as an orientation for the creation of the practical examples and the
implementation of social learning considering age-specific characteristics of the students. Examples for social learning
on each developmental level will be provided during the presentation.

[1]. Petermann, U, Petermann, F (1989). Training mit sozial unsicheren Kindern
[2]. Pühse, U, Gerber, M (2002a; in press). AIESEP Proceedings: International Congress La Coruña 2002

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