Linear Pedagogy vs Nonlinear Pedagogy

In pedagogy, there are two types of coaching, Linear and Nonlinear. Many coaches, whether they are involved in grassroots, academies or the elite level tend to follow the linear pedagogy coaching approach, as seen in past experiences by myself watching other coaches and being coached by numerous different people. Linear Pedagogy focuses on the fact that there is a one size fits all criteria and sessions/drills will meet the needs and demands of the participants. This type of coaching can be seen as very repetitive, aiming towards the blocked practice approach of motor learning. The coach will tend not to use any constraints in their sessions and will automatically presume the the ‘drill’ they are carrying out will prove adequate for their athletes. Linear pedagogy uses the ‘Goal Standard’ model in which the coach coaches the same way to all their participants that is accepted by all. Linear Pedagogy is very much a blocked practice style of coaching with no thought of progressing the session to meet the demands of each player, as everyone will learn and develop in a different format. Reflecting back on my own experiences from watching other coaches at the club I coach at and also being coached myself in Football by various different managers, I can successfully say that coaches at grass roots level use the Linear Pedagogy approach and feel that finding a session/drill or making one up themselves will have a direct successful impact on each participant in the team. Some coaches find it in their nature very difficult to adapt and change the style of their coaching in order to develop each player in the team. Each individual will learn in a completely different way, some will take longer than others, and using a blocked practice style of coaching in Linear Pedagogy wont enable each participant to develop as much as they should be.

The video, (, clearly shows how the coach wants the performer to stand to hit successful forehand shots one after another in table tennis. However, critiquing this method of coaching further, the fact that they are following a blocked practice style of approach means that not only will the performer get bored of performing the same shot over and over again, this type of coaching isn’t game related. The performer will not play a forehand shot like that in a game and they will certainly not perform 50+ forehand shots one after another continuously. That is the problem with this type of practice, it is very limited in what the performers are able to do and many coaches believe this is the correct way to coach as there could be success in the short term.

However, Nonlinear pedagogy is a different style of coaching which challenges the ideology of Linear. Nonlinear pedagogy follows the Dynamical Systems Theory which states that there cannot be a ‘one size fits all criteria led coaching’ because there is too many variables to manage and coordinate. Gréhaigne states that this theory is ‘intended to help players and observers grasp a systemic view of action play and its underlying fulcrums’ (Gréhaigne and Godbout, 2014) meaning that not only will the players be able to grasp and understand the game and learn at their own pace, it will also help the coaches to view the ways in which their players learn and how effective their coaching actually is on their team. What this theory actually means for coaches is that the learning needs to reflect the game demands so the sessions that the coaches put on needs to reflect a game situation/scenario. The movements in the session needs to be underpinned by contextual interference to enable the use of Non-linear pedagogy to work successfully and then this will inevitably provide the learners to explore their own decisions rather than the coach making it for his players.


Using contextual interference for example changing the environment around to make the player(s) think for themselves and to work out potential outcomes may hinder the success-ability of the individuals in the short term as the coach wont be using a blocked practice approach, instead will be focusing more on a random practice approach to make the players think for themselves and to work things out for themselves also. In contrast, this may make the players not successful first off, however once they keep practicing and the constant changing of environments to help them reach the outcome, the long term result will be a huge success and the learning of the players will better over a longer period of time.

Non-linear pedagogy will also have an effect on the skills of the coach. This is because to enable Non-linear pedagogy to have a positive effect on the players, the coach must find ways in which they can change the environment (random practice) to allow the players to work out problems for themselves. If a coach has been using the Linear way of coaching (Blocked practice) all their coaching career, they will be so used to coaching in this way and the players will also be used to the coaching telling them what to do and seeing success straight away, they will find it very hard to adjust their coaching method to focus more on the Non-linear approach.

Linear pedagogy can be seen as the best style of coaching and possibly the safest approach to coaching, however using Non-linear is the best method to see valuable improvements in a coaches team/individual. Although success is not seen in the short term, working out problems for themselves to allow them to understand variables in their own way and their own style of learning will be the best success an individual can produce to themselves and to the team they are playing in if that is the case.

Reference List:

Gréhaigne, J.-F. and Godbout, P. (2014) ‘Dynamic systems theory and team sport coaching’, Quest, 66(1), pp. 96–116


One thought on “Linear Pedagogy vs Nonlinear Pedagogy

  1. A really insightful post, Sam. Your challenge moving forward is to try and underpin your work with more literature (references) to underpin some of the concepts you introduce and the statements you make.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s