Heidi Bohler, Ed.D. Research: Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU)

“I, like many physical educators, came into the field because of my own love of sport and movement,” says Professor Heidi R. Bohler of the Movement Science, Sport and Leisure Studies Department. It was after her first teaching position, while working on her master’s degree, that she realized the impact physical educators can and should have on their students.

“Many physical educators come into the field with a privileged notion of embodiment and ability,” she adds. However, many of the students she taught in public schools did not always have that same notion for movement. Bohler set out to learn how to be a better teacher of movement for those students. In that process, she came to realize the need to pass this information along to pre-service teachers.

Bohler uses an instructional model called Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU). Designed to develop tactical awareness in sport related games, the model supports students in learning to be moving thinkers and problem-solvers.

“What excites me is that my research is cutting edge, but is grounded in the theories that underpin much of education. I’m excited that my research is tied to my teaching and to the future practices of the pre-service teachers. Doing this kind of work also allows me to connect with people in education and in sport from all over the world,” says Bohler.

Learning very differently than through traditional methods, TGfU students play a game and are encouraged to solve tactical problems that are situated in that game set-up. The teacher is the facilitator and asks students questions about their play. The goal is that the students are central to their own learning, and they contribute to the learning of the group by drawing on their own current and prior experiences.

“If we expect physical education to be included fully in the school curriculum, physical educators must offer something new, something meaningful, and something that truly contributes to every student’s learning.”

Bohler’s research focuses on tactical decision-making over time. She also observes how pre-service teachers learn to use the model, and how she evolves in this model as she works with pre-service teachers.

“My students are future teachers. I want to instill in them a love for continued learning, tools for problem-solving, and the idea that physical education needs to be meaningful to all students,” she says.

Professor Bohler holds a B.S. and an M.S. from Texas Tech University and an Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts.