Why the Constraints-Led Approach is not teaching games for understanding: A clarification

Renshaw, Ian, Araujo, Duarte, Button, Chris, Chow, Jia Yi, Davids, Keith, & Moy, Brendan (2016) Why the Constraints-Led Approach is not teaching games for understanding: A clarification. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(5), pp. 459-480.

[img] Accepted Version (PDF 417kB)
Administrators only until May 2017 | Request a copy from author

View at publisher



  • There is some apparent confusion regarding similarities and differences between two popular physical education (PE) pedagogical frameworks, that is, the Constraints-Led Approach (CLA) and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU).


  • Our aim in this commentary is to detail important theoretical and pedagogical concepts that distinguish these approaches, as well as to recognise where commonalities exist.


  • In particular, we note that TGfU had its roots in the 1960s in the absence of a substantial theoretical framework, although several attempts to retrospectively scaffold theories around TGfU have subsequently emerged in the literature. TGfU is a learner-centred approach to PE in which teachers are encouraged to design modified games to develop the learner's understanding of tactical concepts. In contrast, the CLA has arisen more recently from the umbrella of Nonlinear Pedagogy (NLP), emerging from the empirically rich theoretical framework of ecological dynamics. The CLA adopts a ‘learner–environment’ scale of analysis in which practitioners are encouraged to identify and modify interacting constraints (of task, environment and learner) to facilitate the coupling of each learner's perceptual and action systems during learning. The CLA is a broader framework which has been adapted for the design of (re)learning environments in PE, sport and movement therapy. Other key distinctions between the approaches include: the overall goals; the way in which the learner and the learning process are modelled; the use of questioning as a pedagogical tool; the focus on individual differences vs. generic concepts; and how progressions and skill interjections are planned and implemented.


  • Despite such distinctions, the two approaches are somewhat harmonious and key similarities include: their holistic perspective of the learner; the proposed role of the teacher and the design characteristics of learning tasks in each. Both TGfU and the CLA have a powerful central focus on the nature of learning activities undertaken by each individual learner. This clarification of TGFU and the CLA is intended to act as a catalyst for more empirical work into the complementarity of these juxtaposed pedagogical approaches to learning design.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
1 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 91517
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: learning design, pedagogy, physical education sport, Constraints-Led Approach, Teaching Games for Understanding
DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2015.1095870
ISSN: 1742-5786
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Association for Physical Education
Deposited On: 04 Jan 2016 02:57
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2016 07:14

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page