AbstractThe purpose of this study was to describe and interpret the ecology of cooperative learning as an instructional model in two high school physical education classes. One eighth grade (year 9) and one eleventh grade (year 12) class and their teacher were observed during a ten-lesson team handball unit. The following research questions framed the study (a) What were the curricular and organizational characteristics of the handball units? (b) How was the content organized and presented through the instructional tasks? and (c) What were the students' motor responses during the physical education content? A modified version of the task structure observational instrument was used to systematically observe 20 physical education classes (Siedentop, 1994). The ecological analysis demonstrated that both classes had low management time, high engagement time, and a large number of refinements tasks. Students in both classes performed a high number of opportunities to respond in both practice and game situations. Much of the accountability for student performance in managerial and instructional tasks was embedded within the cooperative learning tasks. In addition, the student social system contributed to work in the managerial and instructional task system. Cognitive tasks, which appeared in every lesson, contributed to the students' understanding of the content and contributed to their selection and implementation of appropriate skills and strategies in the games. Cooperative Learning appears to be a viable instructional model for teaching quality high school physical education.
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