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Why the constraints-led approach is not teaching games for understanding: A clarification
Learning design
Physical education
Constraints-led approach
Teaching games for understanding
Issue Date: 
Renshaw, I., Araújo, D., Button, C., Chow, J. Y., Davids, K., & Moy, B. (2016). Why the constraints-led approach is not teaching games for understanding: A clarification. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(5), 459-480.
There is some apparent confusion regarding similarities and differences between two popular physical education pedagogical (PE) approaches, i.e., the Constraints-Led Approach (CLA) and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU). Our aim in this commentary is to detail important theoretical and pedagogical concepts that distinguish the approaches, as well as to recognise where commonalities exist. In particular we note that TGfU emerged in the 1960s in the absence of a substantial theoretical framework, although several attempts to scaffold theories around TGfU have occurred subsequently. TGfU is a learner-centred approach to PE in which teachers are encouraged to design modified games to develop the learner’s understanding of tactical concepts. In contrast, CLA has arisen more recently from the umbrella of Nonlinear Pedagogy based on powerful empirically-verified theoretical frameworks of ecological psychology and dynamical systems theory. CLA creates a ‘learner-environment’ centred approach in which practitioners are encouraged to identify and modify interacting constraints to facilitate emergence of perceptionaction couplings. CLA is a broader approach which has been adapted for the design of (re)learning environments in physical education, sport and movement therapy. Other key distinctions between the approaches include: the overall goals; the way in which the learner and the learning process are modelled; the use of questioning as a pedagogical tool; the focus on individual differences versus generic concepts; and how progressions and skill interjections are planned and implemented. Despite such distinctions the two approaches are somewhat harmonious and key similarities include: their holistic perspective; the proposed role of the teacher; and the learning tasks that are designed by each. Both TGfU and CLA have a powerful central focus on the nature of learning activities undertaken by each individual learner. This clarification of TGFU and CLA is intended to act as a catalyst for more empirical work into the complementarity of these juxtaposed pedagogical approaches to learning design.
This is the final draft, after peer-review, of a manuscript published in Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. The published version is available online at
1740-8989 (print)
1742-5786 (online)
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