Identifying instructional practices employed by Massachusetts Special Olympics Hall of Fame coaches
Sherlock-Shangraw, Rebecca Ann
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Special Olympics athletes may experience unique learning needs not seen among many mainstream athletes. Consequently, research-based coaching practices recommended for coaches of mainstream teams may not be appropriate for Special Olympics coaches. With this in mind, the importance of establishing a research-based knowledge bank of coaching practices to use with athletes who have intellectual disabilities comes to light. Identified coaching practices can benefit coaches of Special Olympics teams, as well as coaches of mainstream teams who may work with athletes who have intellectual disabilities. This first-of-its-kind empirical research study sought to identify instructional practices demonstrated by Massachusetts Special Olympics Hall of Fame coaches (n = 8). Specifically, this study aimed to discover what instructional practices were most commonly used among the participant group; what these instructional practices looked like; and what instructional practices may have contributed to supporting a positive learning climate. A framework for instructional practices set by the National Council for Accreditation of Coach Education (NCACE) was used to assist with the identification of instructional behaviors employed by study participants. A second purpose of this study was to use the NCACE (2006) Domain Five Observation Instrument (DFOI), a competency-based observation tool developed for this study, to collect data on study participants' instructional practices. Each study participant was observed coaching a practice three times during their sport season. Using the DFOI, observed instructional behaviors were quantified via event recording procedures and described by recording descriptive field notes. To triangulate data collected on the DFOI, coaches were audio-recorded with a wireless lapel microphone during practice observations. Following each coach's third practice observation, audio-recorded interviews were conducted to gain further insight into demonstrated instructional practices. Participants were observed performing 2,157 instructional behaviors during 1,080 minutes of observation, averaging 1.99 behaviors per minute and 89.87 behaviors per practice. Based on data analysis, encouragement, positive correction, and tactical and technical cues were the three instructional practices most commonly employed by study participants, accounting for 68.33% of all recorded behaviors. Data also show that participants engaged athletes in sport-specific activities during 63.15% of the total observation time, and spent only 5.95% of the total observation time delivering instruction to their teams. While speculative, data suggest that participants' emphasis of initiative, choice, excellence, and interpersonal relationships may have contributed to the support of positive learning environments. Additionally, the DFOI proved to be a useful observation tool for collecting competency-based quantitative and qualitative data, and is recommended for use during future replications of the current study, as well as future assessments of sport coaches' instructional practices. Based on data collected in this study, 14 recommendations are presented for Special Olympics, community-based, and school-based coach education programs. These recommendations include: promoting the importance of weaving encouragement into coaching practices, using a feedback model to facilitate delivery of positive corrections, and prioritizing use of instructional tools using a "tools in hand, tools in the tool belt, and tools in the toolbox" model.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University
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