Reflections on and with Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles

In recent posts I have reflected on the toolkit available to coaches, and on the ways that different tools can be applied.

We talk of “random” or “game” practices, of Practice vs. Play, of Constraints-Led vs. Games Sense activities, but very often the definitions applied to each coaching style or intervention is poorly defined, especially in terms of who does what.

So perhaps we need some tools to help with reflection.

One such is Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles.

Mosston’s Spectrum is a classification of teaching styles with decision making as a central defining characteristic — when the decisions are taken (pre-delivery, delivery, post) and by whom (teacher or learner).

I was interested to find out more from the recently published tome The Spectrum of Teaching Styles in Physical Education, edited by Brendan SueSee, Mitch Hewitt & Shane Pill.

Neither prescriptive nor judgemental — Spectrum Style “A” (“Command”) is not considered to be inherently “better” than Spectrum Style K (“Self-teaching”). Rather, the Spectrum presents the teacher or coach with a range of teaching options, to be selected based on the needs of the learner — how best to teach them?

Knowing the names and definitions of Mosston’s 11 Landmark Teaching Styles is not going to make much difference to how a coach delivers any activity.

Being aware of quite how an activity has been delivered (being able to label the teaching style utilised) could, however, became an extremely helpful adjunct to coach reflection.

A consistent definition of how a session has been planned and delivered, as afforded by Mosston’s Spectrum, might help:

  • to consistently define what the coach was actually doing before, during and after a session (and also what the Learner was expected to be doing);
  • to make the coach more aware of their preferred style, and to consider how appropriate it might be;
  • to allow comparison of the effectiveness of interventions
    • A-with-A: why was the outcome today less satisfactory than yesterday, even though I followed the same plan? (identify key features & inconsistencies/variations in delivery);
    • A vs. B with same target outcome (different plans, different Styles — which was most effective?)
  • as a tool to identify behaviours (coach & athlete) that might need to be modified (or reinforced);
  • to qualitatively note progress towards the “autonomous learner” — “Coach, make yourself redundant” How close is the learner to Mosston’s Self-Teaching Style K?

All hypotheticals, at this stage, but I can see how Mosston’s Spectrum might be a valuable addition to the coaches’ reflective toolkit.

Caveat — “The Spectrum of Teaching Styles in Physical Education“ discusses the application of Mosston’s Spectrum in PE Teacher Education and in coaching, but does not include definitions of the 11 Spectrum Styles. For these, refer to “Teaching Physical Education” First Online Edition, 2008 [free download

In Mosston’s “Practice” Style – B, the Teacher makes all decisions pre- and post-impact — e.g. what to practice, what “success” is; the Learner, practicing individually and alone, makes all decisions about how to practice. So this does not correspond with a “practice session” as understood in coaching, where the player will practice under the supervision of the coach, and with varying degrees of instruction, intervention etc., which is probably closer to Mosston’s “Command” Style -A.

In fact, Mosston’s B is perhaps closer to the online coaching model:

  • here is a video of the “perfect” technique
  • go away and learn it,
  • then reproduce it ( on video)
  • for critique and feedback from the coach.

In the “Self-Teaching” Style – K, the Learner makes all decisions; there is no role for the Teacher.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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