Module 2 - Virtues and Flaws in Sport

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Title of the module: 

Virtues and Flaws in Sport 

Module objective(s):  Students get to know and understand that there can be “too little” or “too much” of any kind of ability, characteristics, or tendency in sport and that this affects our understanding of virtues and flaws. 
Key learning outcomes/learning challenges/learning problems: including developed syllabus implementation guide for the outcomes  

Learning outcome 1: Students know and understand the definitions of the terms ambition, team spirit, strategy or tactics and similar, and their roles in sports. They are also able to connect these with virtues or flaws, depending on specific situations.

Proposed activity: The Fishermen´s Game

The Fishermen´s Game or Dilemma as inspired by Garrett Hardin´s economic theory “The Tragedy of the Commons”, and its goal is to educate players to cooperate and maximize the social gains although their incentive for personal gains is higher. When given access to a common resource, humans tend to overexploit it, and could by all means do the same in the game; in the Fishermen´s Dilemma, players need to learn to govern the commons while using partial information, without an external “punisher” (like a government or police) that forces them to cooperate, in order to avoid the potential “tragedy”. As players exploit the commons, the augmented environment is going to change its settings, and the groups start to realize that they are doing something wrong. However, players can also learn how to balance the game, and fish just enough, and move to a higher state of game.

At the beginning there are 90 tonnes of fish in the shared lake. The game is played in several rounds. For each round every group has to decide how many percent of the fish they want to catch. They can take any amount between 0 and 15 %. After each round the catch of all groups is substracted. Then the game master announces the tonnage of fish left in the lake including the rate of regeneration. As the aim of the game is to win by catching the highest amount of fish the lake is normally empty after about 4 to 6 rounds. Then there is a conference of the fishermen led by the United Nations who offer to replentish the fish if the groups find a compromise to install rules for fishing. The different groups receive various role cards and accordingly have different aims at the conference. If the groups find a compromise a new game with the agreed rules is started. As the aim is still to win the question is whether the groups stick to the rules or not.

Of course, any kind of activity providing a dilemma situation can be used as an activity, as it is important to focus students´ attention on the necessity of cooperation and developing strategies in order to reach a common aim, which is in the best interest of all participants.

With the help of different games and activities, like The Fishermen´s Game, the students learn about the results and effects of “winning at any cost” and are able to transfer them to several and diverse sports. They moreover learn about the importance of rules and in how far the change of these rules can in influence – in a positive or negative way – the course as well as the objective of various sports. The Fishermen´s Game is especially well-suited to show students the negative consequences if one´s aim is unconditional victory without caring about consequences, and thereby to discuss, challenge and re-evaluate different strategies. By dealing with and taking part in various role plays adapted to a variety of situations, students experience on the one hand the positive sides of fair play (like for example team spirit) and on the other hand possible negative effects of fair play (like for example losing a game). By being allotted specific tasks the students are made aware of various terms like team spirit or tactical foul. Moreover, these terms can be used to expound the problems of multitudes of sports. In all activities and dealings with different aspects, special emphasis is placed on an approach which is based on terms of being student-centred and related to practice.

Activities like The Fishermen´s Game are meant as a starting point for students to focus on important issues which the games they develop afterwards illustrate and focus.

Fishermen´s Game


Role: Insight – Boat with the highest income so far Up to now in the game you decided on the highest fishing quota and thus earned the highest amount of money. But by now you have realized that the amount of fish available in the future depends on your behaviour in the present. Therefore, you want to be cooperative for the rest of the game and only catch as many fish so as not to endanger the fish stock in the lake.

Role: Trust – Boat with the second-highest income In your opinion all crews have realized the problem and will in future restrain their fishing quotas. You are sure the income of the crews will then balance somehow. Because of this, no special regulations are necessary. Above all you are against specified fishing quotas and even more against punishments, i.e. fines, if they are violated.

Role: Control/Punishment – Boat with the medium income During different phases of the game you behaved in different ways: sometimes cooperative, sometimes increasing your fishing quota. In order to stop such a behaviour of the other groups in the future, you want to enforce specified fishing quotas and punishments, i.e. fines for the involved crews, in case of violations at the next fishing conference.

Role: Justice – Boat with the second-lowest income Up to now you have earned the second-lowest amount of money of all crews. Therefore, it is your aim to enforce at the next fishing conference that in the next fishing season the fishing quotas will be divided in such a way that the entire income will be the same for all crews at the end of the season.

Role: Knowledge – Boat with the lowest income Up to now in the game you have been especially cooperative. Very soon you realized that high fishing quotas have a negative effect on the fish stock in the lake. As a reward, you are the only group to receive the growth chart for the fish stock. It is your task to use it in order to determine the ideal fishing quotas and at the fishing conference to convince the other groups to keep to these quotas in the future.

Learning outcome 2:

Students autonomously develop practical lesson ideas, for example for ambition, i.e. excess or lack thereof, games with different handicaps, good/bad team spirit due to team allocations in order to exemplify different aspects of these terms.

Students autonomously develop practical lesson ideas, for example for ambition, i.e. excess or lack thereof, games with different handicaps, good/bad team spirit due to team allocations in order to exemplify different aspects of these terms.


Bench Game (see also activity worksheet at the end) In this game two teams play against each other illustrating the importance of team spirit. In each group there are 7-8 students standing on two benches. The aim of the game is for each of the players of the teams to move from the back to the front of the bench. While one group is allowed to cooperate and help each other, for example by ducking down or assisting team partners by holding on to them, the other team is forbidden to help team members in any way.

In a second step these rules or sports are tested by actually giving classes to other students and finally they are evaluated.

On the one hand rules of already existing games are modified by for example giving advantages to one team or player or including certain aspects in order to facilitate or even render possible sports for mixed groups, i. e. men and women in mixed teams, thus allowing a suitable distribution of skills. On the other hand, new sports following their own rules are developed, partially based on already existing games but also including new aspects and focal points, thus experimenting with aspects like fair play, gender equality and so on.

Learning outcome 3:

Students are able to reflect on and develop “good” possible courses of action based on various situations and conditions, thereby developing problem solving strategies and discarding unhelpful ideas.

During a prolonged phase of practical testing of their independently developed ideas students record their outcomes and modify their rules where appropriate. Based on their results they form new insights and classify those by developing a situation-based conclusion. Aims of these tasks are for the students to recognize good or fair actions and based on these insights to develop appropriate action strategies on their own.

Moreover, the experiences students made while developing their ideas are also to be used in a cross-curricular context, i. e. in other subjects like Ethics, Politics or Biology.

Within the context of virtues and flaws, especially the ideal of team spirit, ambition is one aspect which more or less touches all issues. Accordingly, this aspect can be dealt with and further developed in Ethics lessons following the practical PE lessons. In the follow-up Ethics lesson, a connection to Aristotle´s maxim of “The Golden Middle” is used as an introduction. Accordingly, students are given several characteristics (always groups of three which depict too much – too little – “golden middle”/virtue) mixed up and have to decide in groups which of them they would put together in groups of three, giving reasons for their choices. Having focused students´ attention on the importance of finding a balance, in a next consolidating step using the “Four Corners Game” or “Heads and Tails” students work on quotes dealing with different aspects concerning team spirit, thus developing and broadening their given concepts.   

Possible additional learning outcomes  Students develop strategies for autonomous problem solving, the ability to reflect on various aspects of a given situation or problem by cooperating in groups and teams. The superordinate objective of above-mentioned items is to enable students to deal with and solve problems on their own. Moreover, students can, based on the actual implementation of their rules or new sports with the help of their execution with different school classes, followed by a phase of reflection deliberate, in how far theoretically developed ideas can be put into actual practice. This acquired ability to reflect and autonomously develop solutions is to be supported and enhanced by the students´ working in groups and teams. 
How to learn and work with this module –specific instructions that teachers and students may require and which relate to the whole module, including specific references to the cross-curricular approach:

Students get to know PBL, i.e. pupil-based learning, which means ideas for lessons are provided as well as executed by students, and various other methods and discuss their potential applications. Moreover, they identify and get to know possible cross-curricular and interdisciplinary opportunities, like for example the topics ambition/doping in Biology, Ethics and Physical Education or resilience in Physical Education, Politics/Social Studies and Ethics.

The students get to know different methodical ways of recognizing and solving problems. Problem-oriented learning is the central basic approach, but students also get to know other methods like Focus Group, Fishbowl, Discussion and Debates. The students learn to use suitable methods and modify the according to the relevant situations.

Students recognize possibilities and opportunities of cross-curricular approaches. Subjects like Biology, Ethics and Physical Education for example are especially well-suited for dealing with the topic ambition.

One point of contact concerning the aspect of excessive ambition can be the problem of doping. Concerning this topic Biology lessons can be used to demonstrate in which way the different doping substances work as well as their effects on the body. The performance-enhancing effects of doping substances and moreover their resulting side effects and dangers are illustrated. In this context the issue of the new possibilities of genetic doping can also be broached and accordingly be connected to the ethical and moral dimension of the topic, for example dealing with this issue in Ethics lessons.

Another possible topic is resilience. This current topic is connoted in a prevailingly very positive way in sports as well as economics. However, negative aspects of resilience can be dealt with in Politics or Social Studies lessons.  

Key educational content / subject areas associated with the modules: 

• Virtue

• Flaw

• Character

• Situation

• Strategy

• Cooperation

• Competition  

Further details of the key educational content that will be covered and that contribute to the delivery of the modules, including  
(i) Brief reference to the most effective methods or modes of learning: 

• Student-centred development/learning

• Problem-oriented learning

• Practice-oriented education/lessons

• Methodical skills/competences

• Social competences

Problem-oriented learning: Problems stimulate learning, problems might even be among the most important simulants concerning the extension of one´s own abilities and proficiency. Accordingly, the philosopher Karl Popper says, “All life is problem solving.” (Popper 1994), and the education researcher Jürgen Baumert defines “problem-solving is aim-oriented thinking and acting in situations, which cannot be mastered because of a lack of routines. The problem solver has a more or less well-defined aim but does not know instantaneously how it might be reached. The incongruency of aims and available means is constitutive for a problem. The understanding of the problematic situation and its step-by-step change based on planning and reasoning thinking are constitutive for the process of problem solving.” (Baumert et al. 2003, p. 3)

Student-centred development/learning: Student-centred education and learning are important for lessons because they effect a positive attitude of pupils towards school, learning as well as the teacher. Another additional very decisive, enhancing and enormously positive effect of student-centred learning is that the students´ self-confidence and achievement and learning motivation are crucially enhanced. (Helmke, 2009, p. 231) Student-centred education/learning means to take students seriously as persons and individuals as well as esteemed. Concerning this aspect, the relationship between students and teachers is a central feature. Student-centred education is characterized by teachers not only feeling responsible for questions dealing with their own subjects but moreover being available to students concerning areas above and beyond their subjects (Stangl, 2018)

Practice-oriented education/lessons: Practice-oriented education is conceived as holistic and students activating lessons, in which the results and products of lessons agreed on by students and teachers lead the organization of the process of the lessons, which means putting the mental and manual work of the students into a well-balanced relation to each other (Hilbert Meyer, 1987).

Methodical skills/competences: Methodical skills or competences comprise the ability and proficiency necessary in order to acquire and exploit expert knowledge. On another additional level they are needed to generally enable students to solve problems in an aim-oriented way. Methodical competences are necessary for the successful application of subject-based expertise. Therefore, they constitute a competence which makes competences accessible.

Social competences: Social competences are a complex of abilities providing a basis for taking over control in situations of communication and interaction according to the needs of everyone involved and to act efficiently. Efficient acting is considered to be when because of it on the one hand positive and desirable consequences are maximized and on the other hand negative and undesirable consequences are minimized. Thereby social competences might be differentiated by depicting them as a homogeneous construct or as a compendium of several socially relevant behavioural pattern.  

(ii) Brief reference to the modes of assessing secondary school students (in relation to the learning outcomes):  In order to “test” if the learning outcomes have been achieved, different options or methods are possible. One way of assessment is achieved by a form of physical positioning. For this a line is drawn on the ground. One end of this line depicts “Agree 100%”, the opposite end “Disagree 100%). The teacher gives different statements, quotes etc. dealing with the given topic and asks students to position themselves according to their own agreement or disagreement. In the next step, students have to give reasons for their positionings. In order to be able to discern a learning development, this method should be used before having dealt with the topics and then again afterwards, so that a change of attitudes can be realized and also be used for further deeper- thinking skills.  
(iii) Bibliography/resources: 

Popper, Alles Leben ist Problemlösen: Über Erkenntnis, Geschichte und Politik, 1994.

Baumert, Erfassung fächerübergreifender Problemlösungskompetenzen in PISA, in: OECD PISA Deutschland 2003.

Helmke et al, Schüler als Experten von Unterricht in Lernende Schule 46/47, 2009.

Stangl, 2018,ätter/Publikationen/Motivation.sstml, s. 98-105

Hilbert Meyer, Unterrichts Methoden, 2 Bände, 1987.  

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