Background: Teamwork sits comfortably within the vocabularies of most physical education teachers. It is used to both describe and prescribe student behaviour in a variety of physical and sport-related activities. Yet while supporters of sport and PE have readily employed the term, remarkably few pedagogues have taken the time to consider what teamwork refers to, let alone what it means to teach it.
Focus of study: In this paper, we examine practitioners' constructions of teamwork.
Participants and setting: Data were generated with seven physical education teachers (four male and three female) at a state-funded secondary school near Brisbane, Australia. The teachers ranged in experience from three months to more than 30 years.
Research design: The investigation was a case study of one physical education department at a secondary school.
Data collection: Three interviews were conducted with each of the teachers. The first was biographical in nature and covered themes such as education and sporting experiences. During the second interviews, teachers produced examples and statements on the topic of teamwork as it occurs within their lessons. The material from the second set of interviews was explored in the final set where the teachers were invited to elaborate on and explain comments from their previous interviews.
Analysis: Data were considered from a discursive-constructionist perspective and attention was given to linguistic and grammatical features of the teachers' commentary as well as the cultural relevance of the utterances. The notion of ‘interpretive repertoires’ – essentially cultural explanations bounded by particular socio-linguistic features – provided the central unit of analysis.
Findings: The teachers in the project made use of an array of discursive resources to make sense of teamwork. These constructions often bore little resemblance to one another or to existing theories of teamwork. In some cases, the teachers offered vague descriptions or drew on alternative concepts to make sense of teamwork. Conclusions: Without a certain level of agreement in their everyday usage, teachers' constructions of teamwork fail to be convincing or useful. We maintain that a more substantive conceptualisation of teamwork is needed in the field of sport pedagogy and offer suggestions on how this might be accomplished.