Abstract Effects of a reciprocal management between peers training (rmpt) in table tennis
The aim of this study is to examine the effects of a Reciprocal Management between Peers Training (RMPT) on gaining managerial abilities in table tennis for beginner pupils aged 14-15 yrs. The results are as expected: we observe a higher capacity to identify faults and to give adequate advice for the “Trained management” group (TM) compared to the groups “Spontaneous Management” (SM) and “No Management” (NM). Otherwise, no significant difference has been found between the SM and NM groups. This study therefore brings forward the importance of considering the training of pupils to back up the learning process of their peers as a major cooperative efficacy, especially within the frame of a Reciprocal Peer Tutoring procedure (RPT). It also offers a training model likely to help teachers set up RPT in a table tennis course. This study belongs to a research programme which deals with social psychology in the development and learning contributions within Physical Education (PE) pedagogical intervention. How do these contributions help the training of an expert teacher? Several studies within the laboratory VST2I, EA 498 (Lafont et al., 2005) examine the respective efficacy of several ways of social intervention and interaction: such is the case of RPT. RPT is a peer tutoring procedure originally developed by Fantuzzo and his colleagues (1989, 1992, and 1997). It was born in reply to an ever growing need to find efficient strategies, likely to help children from poor areas to feel more competent concerning academic learning and to make progress. According to Duran and Monereo (2005), the advantage of RPT is to extend the benefits of a fixed tutoring to two members of the dyad all the while reducing its inconveniences (authority, dependence on the tutor…). Thus, alternatively playing the role of tutor and tutee, the RPT allows both learners to reap the benefits linked to teaching, evaluating and mutual support preparation of a peer. So, if this procedure seems to present a growing interest in the field of academic subjects, its potential remains little exploited in the field of motor abilities (Ward & Lee, 2005). This being all the more surprising as physical and sport activities offers many interaction possibilities (Lafont & Winnykamen, 1999). The example of table tennis shows perfectly this remark. Thus, the rules of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) have offered, since 2001, the possibility for a player to receive advice during the time out minute situated at the end of each set. Consequently, the role of the trainer concerning the performance of a player during the game passes from passive spectator to actor exerting a direct influence on the result of the match. The validation of RPT in the PE intervention field brings up the problem of costs/benefits ratio: what are the gains obtained at the same time by the teacher and the pupils? Under which conditions gains are likely to emerge? The majority of studies dealing with motor abilities learning in interactive peer situation have shown the emergence of both motor and motivational benefits. Furthermore, tutoring can be a possible answer to difficulties brought about the heterogeneity of pupils but also one of the solutions allowing the teacher to be more available to certain learners and to assume other key functions (Lafont et al., 2005). However, the cognitive benefits are rarely investigated. Concerning cooperative efficacy conditions, recent research has shown that the reasonably expected benefits for the tutor imply the setting up of a guiding function training to which individuals are rarely prepared (Lafont et al., 2005 ; Legrain et al., 2003). These authors particularly refer to work which has investigated the problem of the sensitivity of child tutors compared to adult tutors. Significant differences have been observed in favour of adult tutors and can be explained by the three following elements: tangible management of the task, management of information given to partners and social interactions management (Ellis & Rogoff, 1982). It is therefore not enough just to be an expert in the task to be a good tutor: the tutor is always an expert, the opposite is not always the case (Winnykamen, 1996). Nevertheless, if the necessity to train pupils in RPT is frequently mentioned, it is rarely explained in a concrete manner.
1. Purpose of this study
The aim of this present research is to give a contribution to social psychology in development and learning within Physical Education and especially to didactical and pedagogical procedures dealing with racket sports. On the one hand, it tries to create a model of training adapted to reciprocal peer management in table tennis. On the other hand, it aims to spread the motor and motivational benefits brought to light in recent studies on tutoring interaction in PE to cognitive benefits: managerial abilities.
The hypothesis of this study postulates that Reciprocal Management between Peers Training (RMPT) is an essential condition for cooperative efficacy. In the ecological reality of pedagogical intervention, the management of heterogeneity and interaction would take advantage of cooperative strategies allowing all pupils to benefit from both tutor and tutee roles. The major question thus becomes: how do we form pupils in reciprocal interaction tutoring in the framework motor ability learning? On an operational level, we expect that the managerial abilities of pupils having benefited from a RMPT programme to be higher, at the post-test, to those of pupils having spontaneously interacted or those who practiced alone. More precisely, it is expected on the part of the condition “Trained Management” (TM) a higher capacity to identify faults and to give adapted advice compared to the conditions “Spontaneous Management” (SM) and “No Management” (NM). In other respects, no significant difference is expected between the participants of the SM group and the NM group.
a. Participants 74 participants aged 15,3 yrs +/- 1,3 yrs, 38 girls and 36 boys, selected out of a population of three 4th year classes in a secondary school situated in the town of Bordeaux (90 pupils), took part voluntarily in the experiment. A written agreement by the parents of each child to take part in the experiment was obtained by the Headmaster of the school. The pupils are beginners in table tennis and have only played previously for 10 hours. b. Target-task and material The target-task, called “Double attention”, is of the technical-tactic type. This name refers to two different learning situations (Delisle, 1999; Sève, 2003). It was created, in agreement with a table tennis specialist (Alain Coupet, 3rd author), with the aim of respecting a double requirement. On the one hand, it makes the player combine technical learning (smash, pivot…) and decision making (high or low path…) in order to succeed, allowing the manager the possibility of giving a wide choice of advice to the player. On the other hand, it implies the learning of specific and general abilities found within the PE curriculum for a 4th year class. In pratical terms, a table tennis expert sends, at regular times (2/3 secs), 20 balls directly and randomly on the participant’s side of the table. The rebound area (1, 2, 3 or 4) and the height of the ball (high or low) consequently vary each time. The participant must react and return the ball after moving. His aim is to get the best possible score. To do that, he must take into account a special point system (cf. table 1). According to the type of his return (type of stroke and position of the ball), he can obtain between 0 and 6 points. A bonus (2 points) is given if the type of stroke is relevant to the type of the path received. The situation is neutral as the expert is not directly concerned by the success or failure of the participant. There is therefore no cooperation or opposition. A setting-out of the table (cf. fig.1) is done in order to make the comprehension of the task aims and especially the score grid easier. The player has two tries and one time-out (1 min) between them.
Table1. Score grid.
c. Measures The evaluation of managerial abilities lay in a comparison between the participants’ answers to a video analysis test and those given by two experts. The video tape showed a table tennis sequence identical to the target-task (expert, setting out of the table…) and played out by players unknown to the participants and which had the same characteristics (age and level). The aim of the audience was, on the one hand, to look for possible faults on the part of the player and, and on the other hand, to use relevant evidence in a view of finding advice. At the end of the video sequence, the participants were expected to write, in a five line double entry table, the faults found on the part of the player and the advice which could lead to a remediation. Previously to the diffusion of the filmed sequence to the pupils, the two experts individually: (a) looked for faults on the part of the player, (b) made a list of managerial advice corresponding to faults noticed, and (c) selected, in order of importance, the advice considered the most important and likely, in the one minute time-out, to favour an immediate behavioural modification of the player. The faults and advice were hierarchically classed by the experts as major (M), secondary (S), and random (R). The advice which could concern inherent parameters for the organisation of the player and, at the same time, characteristics noticed on the expert. This could be of a simply technical nature (“his racket is too open”) or could deal with strategic choices concerning the relevance of the strokes (“he smashes the low balls). The advice should therefore give information on the necessary modifications to be brought to the organisation of the player observed (“he must look at the position of the expert’s racket”). The experts’ observations have led to the identification of five faults (2M, 2S and 1R) which justify five instructions. A three point scale, made by the two experts together, has led to give: (a) 0 points for any fault noticed and any advice given which haven’t been selected by the experts, (b) one point for any random fault noticed and any random advice given, (c) two points for any secondary fault noticed and any secondary advice given, and (d) three points for any major fault noticed and any major advice given. the participants’ answers were compared to those of the experts given to each participant two scores of 11 points, that is to say an identification score (IDEN) and an advice score (ADVI). d. Procedure The experiment took place within a table tennis course consisting of seven lessons and followed four successive stages: (a) the pre-test (first lesson), (b) the treatment (5 lessons) consisted of, depending on the assigned group, a physical practice associated with the exercise of a trained managerial function (TM), a physical practice associated with the exercise of a spontaneous managerial function (SM) and a physical practice without any managerial function (NM), (c) the post-test (last lesson), and (d) managerial abilities test (immediately after the post-test). The pre-test, for each class, established a ranking relative to the initial level of the participants for the target-task, thus favouring the layout of relatively symmetric dyads and eliminating from the study the participants with a too high/low level. The principle element was to associate the participant with the highest rank to the one of the same gender just underneath. The teacher’s opinion was also required in order to avoid putting two participants together with a too high rejection/affinity level. The wish to create symmetric dyads (gender and level) has appeared to be a priority in order to facilitate the reciprocity of inherent roles in the RPT procedure chosen. Finally, the dyads were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions (TM, SM and NM). A physical practice programme of five sequences of three minutes was followed by all the participants in order to allow the pupils to practice sufficiently the target-task in the hope of progress at the end of the course. Following alone for NM condition participants, this programme was completed with the exercise of a managerial function for the interactive TM and SM conditions participants. The managerial function was integrated into the physical practice sequence and offered the possibility for the participants to take the role of both player and manager. Thus, as the dyad arrived at the table, each member was given the role of either player or manager. The player executed the target-task according to the same methods as those presented at the pre-test. During the task, the manager had to observe his partner in silence. During the time-out, the participants could freely interact. At the end of the sequence, the roles were reversed and the second sequence could begin. The TM condition participants used their managerial function in exactly the same way as the SM condition participants. On the other hand, they received training for this function. The device of the RMPT was made up of two sequences of 60 minutes, done out of PE lessons, between the pre-test and the first physical practice lesson. Its methodological components were taken from four studies within the field of academic and motor subjects. Thus, it aimed at creating a “communicational context” between the experimenter and the learners in order to allow a “co-construction” of the meaning and the aims of the training (Lorence, 2002). Moreover, the task was divided into three under-tasks to facilitate the observational work (Wiegmann et al., 1992). Equally, rules of how to be a good manager (Lafont et al., 2005) were given to the learners (cf. table 2). Finally, the “nominal group technique” (Brunelle et al., 1988), which prompts an active participation from all the members by limiting the constraints linked to the group, was used. The purpose of this training for the participants was to bring to the surface and to integrate, on the one part, the realisation and success criteria of a table tennis task, and, on the other, the rules of how to become a good manager. The post-test took place in exactly the same way as the pre-test for the NM condition participants and in dyad for the TM and SM conditions. At the end of the post-test and for each class, all of the participants were assembled in order to evaluate the managerial abilities (cf. measures).
Table 2. The 5 “golden rules” of how to be a good manager (Lafont et al., 2005).
A multivariated analysis of variance (MANOVA), completed by Bonferroni’s post-hoc test, was done on the post-test in order to measure the principal effect of the learning condition on the managerial abilities of the pupils: the identification score and the advice score (table 3). The MANOVA brings to light a principal effect of the learning condition on both the identification score (F (2, 71) = 29,14, p<0, 05, ES = 0,45) and the advice score (F (2, 71) = 45,05, p<0,05, ES = 0,56). Furthermore, Bonferroni’s post-hoc test shows that the TM condition participants obtained significantly higher scores than SM condition (+ 3,5 ; + 4,33) and NM condition (+ 3,5 ; + 4,57) participants. On the other hand, no significant difference exists between SM and NM participants.
Table 3. Means (X) and Standard deviations (?) for each condition of the managerial abilities test.
The main purpose of the present study was to bring to the fore the essential role of a training in the frame of reciprocal peer management. It tried to create a model of a training programme, on beginner learners involved in a table tennis course, essential to the emergence of higher managerial abilities. It turns out that, in accordance with the literature and our hypothesis, the training of pupils in reciprocal interaction is a major efficacy condition. Done spontaneously, reciprocal peer management didn’t help pupils to identify striking faults or to advise in a more pertinent way the realisation of a table tennis motor task. Incidentally, only the presence of a reciprocal management training led to the emergence of higher cognitive benefits. By making explicit in a practical way realisation and success criteria of the target-task as well as the rules of how to be a good manager, the RPMT programme seems to have allowed the pupils to take full advantage of the interactive procedure offered, the benefits not being limited here on motor or motivational plane. However, these results need to be qualified by certain limits caused by the nature of the dependant variable and the type of the task used. Indeed, the managerial abilities measured concerned an artificial situation coming from the analysis of a film sequence and not that of a real managerial situation. This remark invites eventual research to measure the impact the RMPT programme on the ability of the manager to identify faults and advise his own dyad partner. An interlocutory analysis of dyad interactions, on this subject, could be extremely enlightening (Darnis et al., 2005). Moreover, the experimental aspect of our device limits the external validity of the significant effects observed. New investigations could consider in particular the impact of training in an authentic match situation. The results of this study present several interests concerning PE teaching and especially the didactic and pedagogic implementation in table tennis. More precisely, they contribute to the explanation of the efficacy conditions of a reciprocal peer interactive procedure. They also help to identify the nature of the expected benefits.
Firstly, the results reinforce the idea in which the setting up of an efficient cooperative learning strategy needs peer interaction training. Far from being absent from the procedure, the teacher holds a central place by giving to his pupils a training in being a tutor or tutee. In the same way as motor or cognitive abilities, cooperative abilities need a real apprenticeship. In the particular case of learning table tennis managerial abilities, it would seem that the RMPT programme is an effective example of training, adapted in the particular context of reciprocal interaction. Secondly, our study shows a higher capacity for analysing a performance and providing effective advice in pupils having benefited from reciprocal management training. Consequently, it increases the expected benefits of RPT procedure in PE. Although literature in the field of motor abilities underlines the frequent emergence, in RPT context, of motor and motivational benefits, the present research shows that the cognitive benefits can be reasonably expected. The study presented here puts forward a first outline of a wider table tennis research programme. Several new research projects can be suggested, as well as those previously mentioned (cf. discussion). On the one hand, it seems relevant to measure the impact of the RMPT programme on motor and cognitive variables in order to appreciate its real pedagogical potential. Consequently, certain questions relative to its usefulness in a table tennis course could find answers: does the pupil increase his performance? Does he feel more competent? Does he want to make more of an effort to improve? On the other hand, we can ask ourselves, in the same way as the propositions put forward by Legrain et al. (2003, 2005), on the influence of mediatory variables such as gender or age of pupils. Can the type of training offered by the teacher be the same for boys in the Upper sixth as that for girls in the First year? Trying to answer these questions can only expand the corpus of knowledge in the intervention and didactic field of table tennis and more generally in those of racket sports and PE.
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