Starting out with Developmental Stage 1

This is an excerpt from Methods of Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility by Doris L. WatsonB & rian Dean Clocksin.

Developmental Stage 1

As we discussed in the beginning of this book, students in the first developmental stage are often working on exhibiting Level I (respect) and II (participating with effort) behaviors consistently. During this stage the teacher takes the predominant role in leading the awareness talk, choosing developmentally appropriate tasks and challenges, structuring the group meeting, and providing reflection opportunities. As the lessons progress, the teacher is mindful to provide students with opportunities to begin to transition to developmental stage 2 (TPSR Level III, self-direction).

Relationship Time

Although icebreaker games can set the stage for learning experiences in adventure education, we use them throughout the learning process in a variety of sport and physical activities to facilitate a more coordinated effort to build connections between the teacher and students. Icebreaker games provide an opportunity for students and teachers to interact, develop relationships, and have fun. Icebreakers can vary in length but all serve the purpose of creating an environment that fosters acceptance and interaction. A number of resources for icebreaker activities for all ages appear on the list at the end of the resources section in the back of the book. When working with developmental stage 1 learners, consider selecting activities that focus on individual traits (communication, cooperation, self-control, respect, and effort) within the context of group interactions.

The Mystery Move activity (Model in Action 5.1) gives students the opportunity to demonstrate self-control and cooperation (Level I) as well as to participate with effort (Level II). There is often a point in the game when a student is unable to identify who is leading the activity and begins to point madly at everyone. This bit of conflict can allow for the group to reset and to establish limits on the number of times a person can guess the leader before he switches places. It also gives the teacher and students the opportunity to compliment the student leading the activity, as well as the whole group on their cooperation, which provides a nice transition to the awareness talk.

Awareness Talk

During the first developmental stage, the teacher takes the primary role during the awareness talks. He identifies the theme, guides the questioning, and makes the connection to teachable moments in the lesson focus. Commonly used themes during developmental stage 1 include respect, self-control, participation, effort, and effective communication. We like to use icebreakers during the relationship time, because they provide a leaping-off point from the activity to the remainder of the lesson. We also use the “What?”, “So what?”, “Now what?” method of structuring the awareness talk. This technique helps us draw meaning from the activity during the relationship time; it also models for students how they may direct the awareness talk as we eventually move to the side and allow them to lead this portion of the lesson (developmental stages 2 and 3). For example, in developmental stage 1, we might ask these questions:

  • “What were some of the things we needed to do in Mystery Move to be successful as a group?”
  • “What did you need to do to support the group?”

On the basis of responses from the students, we then lead them to extend their thinking by asking questions such as the following:

  • “So what might be some things from the activity you might want to work on personally?”
  • “What might be a couple things you know about yourself that you want to try to stop doing?”
  • “Today we are starting our volleyball unit. What can you do in this unit to demonstrate some of those characteristics or behaviors?”
  • “As you consider where you are, what are some goals you can take forward during today’s lesson? Challenge yourself a bit!”

Lesson Focus

The theme identified during the awareness talk can set the stage for teachable moments throughout the lesson focus. You can select tasks or use pedagogical strategies that provide opportunities for students to make a cognitive or affective connection between the tasks and the theme. The teaching style you use can help to create a space for those teachable moments to occur. Although in developmental stage 1 it is often beneficial to maintain a somewhat teacher-centered approach (command style), we must also give students opportunities to work toward skill development in developmental stage 2. The style you choose will be influenced by your teaching philosophy, the learning styles of your students, and the context in which the lesson is presented. Here we provide an example of a lesson focus on a volleyball skill using two different styles of teaching.

Table 5.1 presents considerations for teaching the Dot Drills (Model in Action 5.2) activity using two teaching styles and shows how these connect to the TPSR model. The command style is more teacher centered, and the reciprocal style progresses a bit toward the divergent end of the teaching spectrum.

Command (Direct) Style

Presenting the Dot Drills activity through a command style allows you to direct the students through the progression of tasks. This encourages students to perform the task in the same way at the same time and allows you to check student performance. For each separate drill, provide a demonstration of the drill and identify cues:

  1. Keep knees bent.
  2. Move feet quickly from dot to dot.
  3. Keep body in a ready position with hands and arms out.

The teacher starts and stops the students for each drill, demonstrating the new variation and establishing cues. Throughout the activity the teacher moves about the space providing feedback.

Reciprocal Style

To present the same drill in reciprocal style, organize students into pairs. Each pair has a Dot Drill diagram on the floor. Students also have task sheets that briefly describe each drill and provide cues. In addition, we suggest providing a list of possible motivation-type feedback phrases students can use, such as “Way to keep your feet moving” or “Great job! Keep with it!”

Each pair of partners begins when ready. One student completes one rotation of the drill while the partner observes and provides feedback. The feedback should relate to the cues identified on the task sheet. After one rotation of the drill, students switch roles; the observer becomes the doer, and the doer becomes the observer. This process is repeated for each drill variation. The teacher’s role is to move about the space and assist the observers in accurately observing the doer. The teacher must step in to provide feedback if a safety issue arises. Otherwise, the teacher encourages or suggests feedback to the observer only if the observer is not providing feedback. Key to this style is getting the students to interact with minimal or no input from the teacher.

Group Meeting

Group meetings during the first developmental stage are facilitated by the teacher but provide an opportunity for students to have a voice in the learning process. This is the time for students to give input on how the lesson went, how their peers did, and even how the teacher did, all in relation to working on goals of developmental stage 1. Questions about how the activities challenged the students and how they felt participating in the lesson when the teacher used a given teaching style are good beginning points. Students can also be asked how they felt the class as a whole or just they and their partner or small group did. Lastly, you can ask how you as the teacher did and what you might work on for next session. As Don Hellison notes, this facet of the lesson tends to be foreign to students initially, as young people are not often asked to provide feedback to each other, much less to and about the teacher. Over time, students will feel more comfortable verbalizing their thoughts as this becomes a consistent part of the class.

Don suggests that teachers initially lay down some ground rules; they can do this in collaboration with the students. These are examples of group meeting ground rules:

  • No blaming others—accept responsibility for yourself.
  • Include everyone in the discussion.
  • Be respectful of yourself and others (full-value contract).
  • Use each other’s names.
  • Do not talk over each other.
  • Wait for classmates to finish their comments.

These are only a few examples; again, we encourage teachers to solicit input from their classes about what the ground rules should include.

Another especially relevant issue concerning group meetings is time. If you do not have sufficient time to check in with all students, ask for responses on how things went from a few students. A common practice in many TPSR-based programs is to have the students keep a journal. They can do this as homework and turn in their comments the next day. This way you keep track of how things are going and get timely input from the class.


Reflection time should flow fairly seamlessly from the group meeting time. Group meeting time focuses on student evaluation of the lesson, and reflection time focuses on evaluation of the students’ roles as learners and support. Thus, questions can move from how the activities or style of teaching challenged or engaged the students to a focus on how they participated as independent learners, demonstrated respect, showed self-direction, and cooperated during the lesson. During developmental stage 1, the teacher directs the discussion. The thumbometer is a technique often used for reflection time. In response to questions from the teacher, students point their thumbs up, sideways, or down to indicate how well they did on a particular aspect of the lesson. These are examples of questions the teacher might ask:

  • “During Dot Drill today, did you demonstrate cooperation with your partner by giving feedback?”
  • “Did you show stick-to-itiveness during Dot Drill as it got harder?”
  • “Did you show self-direction by challenging yourself during the drill?”

Students respond as a group by pointing their thumbs. The teacher notes where most of the participants are (e.g., more thumbs up than down) so as to facilitate activities toward the higher levels (Levels III through V). As Don notes in his work, it is important to acknowledge that kids have bad days, too, which means we should support them and encourage honest self-evaluation. We also want to underscore not blaming others for our behavior.

Lastly, the reflection time is when we can begin to encourage students to think about how they can demonstrate the levels outside of the class or program. Asking students where in their out-of-class or out-of-program lives they could demonstrate a given level of responsibility allows them to begin to conceptualize this transition. For some students, reaching a particular level outside of class but still within the school (which is a nice scaffold) might be all that is possible. In any case, we should begin to encourage students to think about responsibility concepts outside the class.

Learn more about Using Physical Activity and Sport to Teach Personal and Social Responsibility.

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