• Introduction
  • The command style (a)
  • The pros and cons of the command style
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Pre-impact set: a set of educational decisions that define the intent of the lesson. Includes planning, preparation, organizing, etc.
  • Impact set: a set of actions made during the lesson and one-on-one feedback. The implementation of the pre-impact decisions in the actual lesson.
  • Post-impact set: the assessment made after the lesson. Evaluating the goal and the outcome.

Introduction

The spectrum of teaching styles was first produced by Mosston and Ashworth (1966) as a framework for physical education teachers. These styles ensure that the lessons are catered to each student’s varying needs while making sure they learn all the necessary concepts, skills, and processes essential to physical education. Mosston himself called it “a framework of options in the relationships between teacher and learner”.

Mosston’s spectrum of teaching styles consists of 11 different teaching styles ranging from teacher-focused methods to more student-led techniques. Each of these styles has its distinct characteristics, strengths, and uses in the classroom.

This post focuses on the command style, and what makes it such an important method for teaching physical education.

The command style (a)

The command style refers to an educational method where all of the decisions before, during, and after the teaching situation are made by the teacher. This includes factors such as where the students should be located, what skills are practiced, how long each skill is practiced, what tempo is being used, etc. 

Decision-making

Teacher

Student


Pre-impact set:
(decisions that define the intent – specific planning & preparation of the lesson)

X


Impact set:
(decisions related to the implementation of the lesson plan & face-to-face interaction)

X


Post-impact set:
(decisions concerning assessment after the lesson)

X


In the command style, the students immediately respond to the stimulus provided by the instructor. For example, at the start of the lesson, the teacher may demonstrate how to throw a basketball while the students follow the instructions. This is especially important because visual learning has proven to be the most common learning medium when it comes to learning a motor task.

After demonstrating the skill, the teacher makes the students perform the skill at the same time according to a certain stimulus, such as blowing the whistle.

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The command style (a)


Teacher makes all decisions during the classLearner performs a task by responding to a stimulusTeacher gives feedback to everyone at the same timeEffective when lesson must be hyper-organized(large group, safety reasons, etc.)Effective when time is of the essence

The pros and cons of the command style

The command style is best used in situations where safety and time are of the essence. Here, the pace of learning is controlled entirely by the teacher and each repetition can be performed very precisely. Due to its highly controlled nature, the command style can also be useful when working with a large group of people. 

However, because each skill is performed on cue, there is little time for individual feedback. If the instructor chose to do this, they would have to make the rest of the class wait and listen to said feedback. Not only is this an ineffective use of time but it may also be traumatizing if the learner does not receive the feedback they want to hear. 

Additionally, this does not cater to students who learn quickly and are ready to move on to the next task. Thus, the time used for signaling each repetition could be better used doing something more challenging. In simple terms, it may slow down the learning process and make the exercise boring. 

Final thoughts

The command style is often considered the most straightforward style of teaching. After all, it introduces a new skill or movement pattern to the entire class while making sure everyone works at the same pace. This also means that students aren’t rushed in their learning process or burdened with too much information at once. 

One of the main reasons why teachers use the command method is that it helps keep the students under control. However, isn’t this outcome essential for the other styles of teaching as well? Instead of just keeping the students in check, the command style could also be used to create an environment where students build a foundation for their skills that can be further improved in the future. Therefore, ensuring that the students progress in their skills in a safe and effective manner. 

In addition to learning and improving motor skills, giving consistent feedback to students also helps them understand what skills/movements they need to keep working on. Through repetition and feedback, these skills are transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory, where they can be recalled in the future when needed. 

Did you learn anything new about the command style?

Sources

  • Magill, R. A. (1998). Motor learning: concepts and applications (5th Ed.). McGraw-Hill, Boston.
  • Mosston, M. (1992). Tug O War, no more: Meeting teaching learning objectives using the Spectrum of Teaching Styles, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 63, 27-31.
  • Mosston, M. & Ashworth, S. (2008) Teaching Physical Education. 1st Online Edition. Cited on 20.9.2021.
  • Shea, C., Shebilske, W., & Worchel, S. (1993). Motor learning and control. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

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