THE SPECTRUM; A PHILOSOPHY OF DELIBERATE COACHING
The Spectrum offers a framework for the application of a range of teaching styles (from here, referred to as coaching styles as this book is intended for the field of sport coaching). The framework explains the decisions of both the teacher, who in this book is the sport coach, and ‘the learner’, who in this book is the player.
Over 40 years, Mosston argued that pedagogy requires a framework for consistency to prevent discrepancy between (1) What academics might see as important and what practitioners (in this case, sport coaches) might see as important; (2) What academics say should occur and what really happens in the field; and (3) Claims social agencies or prominent people might seek to make, criticise or attack the profession or an individual’s practice (Mosston & Mueller, 1969). In response to these three challenges, Mosston proposed The Spectrum. He defined a style of teaching by the decisions made before, during and after the act of teaching. We argue this is the same for the sport coach, and hence we can adapt The Spectrum to the field of sport coaching as it is an educative endeavour. To that end, the decisions made by the coach in the design of a practice activity create an order and give rise to a sequence of events within the practice activity. The decisions determine the limits of the activity and result in mutually exclusive outcomes. Thus, like teaching, sport coaching can be understood and explained as the deliberate act of pairing appropriately a coaching style with an activity outcome (Mosston, 1966a). As a result, a fundamental question arises for the coach in planning their coaching sessions: ‘Which style(s) would be efficient with which activity?’ (Mosston, 1966a, p. 4).
Mosston called on the work of Bruner (1966) to explain the philosophy of The Spectrum, and, specifically, the role of teaching as developing students to think for themselves (Mosston, 1966a). This in part explains the layout of The Spectrum ‘from Command to Discovery’, which will be explained further in Chapter 2
. Borrowing from Bruner, player learning is viewed as involving the development of understanding of information through perceptual organisation, through manipulation and action, and through
symbolic representation (Moss-ton, 1966a).
At this point in the chapter, it is relevant to note that ineffectual coaching practice can be passed on by informal learning of the experience of being coached, the ‘everyday’ experience of coaching or the observation of other coaches. Apart from sport accreditation courses that may contain a component on teaching, historically, coaches mainly learn to coach informally (Nash & Sproule, 2012). Bruner’s (1996) idea of ‘folk pedagogies’, the unevidenced personal ideas, assumptions and intuition about effective teaching or which approach has what specific effect on a learners’ development, comes to mind. To avoid coaching behaviour being ‘idiosyncratic’ to ‘the individual teacher’s ability, fancy, whim, mood, needs, purposes, and so on’ (Mosston, 1969, p. 2), we suggest that a coaching style must be congruent to the practice task (not to be confused with the Practice Style coaching) meeting the learning need of the player, a central tenet of The Spectrum.
Mosston had four reasons for the genesis of The Spectrum and a fundamental proposition, which we also believe apply to sport coaching:
- To remove incongruities between sport coaching behaviour and player learning behaviour;
- To remove incongruities between educational philosophies and the actual behaviour of sport coaches;
- To bring together information and research about learning to affect sport coaching behaviour; and
- To bring a focus on analysing the act of sport coaching.
(Mosston, 1969, 1992)
‘The fundamental proposition of The Spectrum is that teaching is governed by a single unifying process:
decision making. Every act of
deliberate teaching is a consequence of a prior decision’ (Mosston, 1992, p. 29). The Spectrum enables sport coaches to understand the possible combinations of coaching as teaching decisions by looking at the practice task as a coach-learner relationship. Each option in the coach-learner relationship has a structure of decisions that defines the role of the coach and the learner, which enables then, a coaching style to be described. This will be considered in detail in Chapter 2
, where the operational structure of The Spectrum is explained, and consideration is given to the decisions made by the deliberate
sport coach as educator before the practice session, in delivery of the practice session, and after the practice session. ‘Teaching in all communities is deliberate’ (Mosston, 1966b, p. 4).
Applying Mosston’s philosophy of deliberate teaching to sport coaching, there are five decisions made by the coach before they go into a practice session:
- The selection of subject matter;
- The quantity of an activity;
- The quality of the performance;
- The degree of coach involvement; and
- The degree of player involvement.
In execution of the practice session, five deliberate decisions are made by the coach. During practice, the coach makes decisions about:
- Starting times of activities;
- Duration of activities;
- Pace and rhythm of activities; and
- When to stop an activity.
Five deliberate decisions are made by the coach after a session:
- Ongoing evaluation of the player;
- Evaluation of tests of the player;
- Evaluate the player against group norms (today we might call these standards, competencies, or outcomes);
- Evaluate the player against the individual’s growth and improvement; and
- Evaluate the team (or squad) in relation to itself, other teams, or ‘competition norms’.
The purpose of this decision-making is to be able to maximise individual opportunities for player learning by the sport coach being better equipped to encourage the players’ concept of self, with the main purpose being to encourage the player towards becoming a ‘fully functioning person’. Here we see again a connection to the contemporary understanding of athlete-centred coaching (Pill, 2018).
A Non-Versus Approach
Ideas about sport coaching models and approaches are often presented as alternatives, in opposition to each other, or in contrast with each other, for example, the cognitive perspective against the
ecological perspective, direct versus indirect learning, non-linear versus linear
pedagogy. Mosston described this as an education ‘tug-of-war’, creating fragmentation and separation of ideas as practitioners are asked to choose theories exclusively (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008). Mosston sought a non-versus approach that recognised the value of any style deliberately chosen to enable the task to meet the needs of the learner. The non-versus approach takes coaching beyond
idiosyncratic preferences for theories and behaviours by examining the act of coaching as teaching from a structural perspective rather than personal preference (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008). The non-versus approach to The Spectrum logically and sequentially presents a structure providing any coach options in creating coaching as a teaching activity. This is explained in Chapter 2
It is important to emphasise that The Spectrum does not present any style as good versus bad, as all styles have their place in what we might now call ‘quality’ coaching. The pedagogical skill of the sport coach is understanding how to use each style to attain a learning effect—in essence knowing the coaching style that best works to achieve the task outcome/s the coach envisages for the identified player/s learning need from that task.
Fundamental to the structure of The Spectrum is that all teaching styles are beneficial for what they can accomplish; none is more important, or more valuable, than another. Rather than directing one’s teaching toward any one behavior, the goal of the Spectrum for teachers is to demonstrate mobility ability. Proficient Spectrum teachers have the ability to shift among the behaviors, as needed, to accommodate learners’ needs, content focus, time constraints, and the myriad goals of education.
(Mosston & Ashworth, 2008, p. 5)
It is the configuration of deliberate selection of decisions that determines specific coaching behaviours. The Spectrum enables sport coaches to act with enhanced clarity of how to manipulate the deliberate selection of decisions as an intentional pattern of decision-making. The Spectrum styles thus become tools and The Spectrum a coach’s teaching ‘toolkit’ (Sue-See & Pill, 2018).
Sport, like any form of physical play, has the unique ability to deliberately contribute to developmental opportunities in cognitive (decision-making), physical (movement ability), social (interacting with others), emotional (self-control, joy, frustration) and ethical (fair play) development channels. The Spectrum theory postulates that all the developmental channels have an inseparable connection. Every learning experience ‘provides opportunities for learners to participate in, and develop, specific human attributes along one or more of the Developmental Channels’ (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008, p. 12). As athlete-centred coaches (Pill, 2018), we argue that sport coaches must engage players thought processes in all developmental channels and not simply think of sport as the provision of a form of physical activity.
Mosston adopted a cognitive orientation to The Spectrum theory, believing learning occurs when something triggers us to engage in memory, discovery or creativity. Mosston suggested that the search for answers started with cognitive dissonance, a state of ‘needing to know’ (Festinger, 1957). This search may involve memory (or recall), a discovery process, a creative process, or all three. When the search or the ‘need to know’ is over, a response has occurred—an answer, solution, idea or movement pattern has developed (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008).
The Spectrum premise that learning does not ‘just happen’, that it is planned for and the sport coach must aim and check for player success in making meaning of and further understanding the ‘lesson’ of a practice session (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008), is like one of the premises of a culture of thinking (Ritchhart, 2015). A culture of thinking is facilitated by visible thinking and learning. Visible thinking and learning are facilitated when sport coaches identify desired results from practice and are explicit with players about what the learning ‘standards’ are, what the success criteria is, and what the outcomes for each practice session are (Pill & SueSee, 2017; Wiggins & McTighe, 2012). We suggest that a culture of thinking required to develop players as decision-makers necessitates a coach to understand different thinking outcomes relevant to the tasks in a practice session in order to intentionally design appropriate tasks (Ritchhart, 2015).
Enacting The Spectrum as deliberate teaching is also like the idea of learning as Understanding by Design (UBD: Wiggins & McTighe, 2012). UBD asserts that educator planning begins with the identification of the needs of the learner before determining content and teaching style. We suggest that when sport coaches are better able to determine the necessary content of practice sessions pertinent to the players learning needs, there is enhanced player engagement in that learning because of the task and teaching style complementarity to the player/s needs (Pill & SueSee, 2017).
What Does It Mean to Develop ‘Thinking Players’?
As the reader has perhaps already ascertained, The Spectrum is a model that attempts to avoid ambiguity by being specific about terminology. The idea of avoiding ambiguity as it relates to the use of the term ‘thinking’ is also clear when using The Spectrum theory (Mosston & Ash-worth, 2008). Developing ‘thinking players’ in the context of The Spectrum is about a coach considering three cognitive processes: memory, discovery and creativity. When memory is used, it requires the reproduction of knowledge or skills. The discovery process requires players as learners to produce knowledge that was previously unknown to them. It involves a ‘search’ and cannot be achieved in one cognitive step. Creativity requires the player to produce something that is ‘new, different, beyond commonly known or anticipated responses’ (Mosston & Ashworth, 2008, p. 48). In summary, this explains that if you are questioning a player who has previously solved the problem in a game, they are likely recalling knowledge retrieved from memory in their response.
We suggest that it is the coach’s responsibility to develop ‘thinking players’ as they must solve the problems of the moment in the game. This is achieved through the creation of experiences that require each type of thinking—recall retrieval (memory), discovery and creativity. For example, there are times when the coach or situation will require the recall or reproduction of a skill or strategy. For such times, it would be appropriate to apply a coaching style that requires the player to use recall from memory as the dominant conscious thought process in answering a coach’s question/s or in meeting the problem of the task. Such styles exist in the Reproduction cluster of Styles A–E from The Spectrum. When a coach chooses to use these styles,...