Searching for the ’How’: Teaching methods in Swedish physical education

Håkan Larsson1, Inger Karlefors2
1 The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm
2 Department of Education, Umeå University


Over the last few decades, focus in educational research – as well as in policy – seems to have shifted from teaching to learning. As a result of this, we know little about what different teaching methods are used in the subject, and how. The purpose of this article is to explore how different teaching methods are used in Swedish secondary physical education. Video recorded physical education lessons in eight Swedish secondary schools were used to identify different teaching methods. Kirk’s (1996) elaboration of the Spectrum of teaching styles formed the basis of the analysis. In subsequent interviews, teachers (8) and students (24) were asked questions about teaching and learning in the subject. All of the five methods that Kirk (1996) outlined were identified in the lessons, but they were very unevenly used. The task-based method was the most frequent one, while the guided discovery method was hardly used at all. The impression was that the teachers did not seriously consider the selection of methods in relation to objective, content and group of students. The students, for their part, described a situation where they were often left to their own devices regarding what they were supposed to learn. Based on the analysis, we argue that teachers need guidance to improve and develop their deliberate use of teaching methods in general, and especially student-centred methods. This is necessary if the goals of the subject are to be achievable for all students. We conclude that the marginal focus on teaching methods in physical education is not related to a parallel increase of the interest in student learning in the subject. On the contrary, the low interest in the use of different teaching methods seems rather to be related to a low interest in what students are to learn in the subject.


Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 9, 2018


HÅKAN LARSSON is a professor of sport sciences, specialising in physical education and sport pedagogy, at The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, in Stockholm, Sweden. Currently, he is also guest professor at Malmö University, Department of Sport Sciences. Since more than a decade he is scientific leader of the research group physical education and sport pedagogy at GIH. His main research interests are about teaching and learning in physical education, and gender and heteronormativity in sport.

INGER KARLEFORS has a PhD in Education. She has worked as a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Education, Umeå university, and the department of Arts, Communication and Education at Luleå University of Technology. Her research has focused youth sports and the school subject Physical Education and Health, and this interest has developed during a career as a youth sports coach and as a PE teacher.


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