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Concept-Based Learning

Laban's Movement Framework

"Knowledge without understanding is isolated and may render itself useless whilst understanding needs to be supported by knowledge" (Elnimer, 2018, p. 1).


In this blog, I will provide details on what concept-based learning is and its benefits in learning. I will introduce and briefly breakdown Laban's (1948) movement framework and how it might be included throughout a PE program.

Concept-Based Learning

Concepts are timeless, universal (they can be applied across different cultures), transferable because they can be transferred across different disciplines, and are abstract (Erickson, 2008). Concepts, or "big ideas", should be built upon and transfer knowledge across different contexts (National Research Council, 2002).


Concept-based learning provides learning experiences for students that develops transferable ideas (e.g. wellness) both within a subject area (e.g. PE) and across other subject areas (e.g. science.) (Marschall & French, 2018). Teaching through the use of concepts in any subject area develops deeper learning than simply teaching facts (Green Gilbert, 2015).


Laban's Movement Framework

Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) discovered and explained four concepts of movement and that enable students to focus on one or more of these four aspects at any time - through movement (Langton, 2007). Laban's movement framework consists of four concepts (Wall & Murray, 1994):

1) Body

  • Whole body in action - bending, stretching, twisting

  • Activities of the body - manipulative/object control, locomotor, non-locomotor

  • Roles of body parts - supporting/receiving body weight, leading/initiating activity (e.g. shadowing or mirroring)

  • Shapes - Rounded, elongated, wide, twisted

2) Space

  • Personal space (non-locomotor movements) - Directions, Levels

  • General space (locomotor movements) - Levels, Pathways

3) Effort

  • Weight - Firm/Strong; Fine/Light

  • Time - Slow/Sustained; Fast/Sudden

  • Flow - Bound/Stoppable; Free/Ongoing

  • Space - Indirect/Flexible, Direct/Linear

4) Relationships

  • People in the environment

  • Objects in the environment (e.g. ribbons, juggling scarves, chairs, etc.).

Moving over, under, through, around, above, below, between, beside, on, off, in, out --> in relation to objects or other people.


Laban's Movement Concepts in PE

According to Green Gilbert (2015), its not acceptable to simply replicate a teacher's steps and routines during a unit of dance. Through the exploration and learning of dance concepts, students can better create and perform dance. Obviously there is benefits of implementing Laban's movements concepts to develop competent movers who have a deep understanding of movement. Teachers can also deepen the understanding of these big movement ideas by using the same concepts in games and gymnastics (or other movement composition) units (Langton, 2007). Space, body, effort, and relationships can be authentically included in multiple units of PE allowing students to revisit movement skills and concepts over the elementary years. This will help allow students to build and organize their movement skills and understanding (Langton, 2007). It is also important for students and teacher(s) to communicate common/consistent vocabulary about the movement concepts to further develop this understanding.


Examples of Movement Concepts in Units Outside of Dance

Gymnastics - emphasizing the body skills needed to perform skills skills like jumping, weight transfer, rolling, hanging, twisting, curling. Relationships used with the different types of apparatus that students may be moving over, on, off, under, etc. Additionally, the relationships between other students when performing partner and/or group balances.


Games - travel in games in different directions, pathways, and levels with and without objects. Varying force a student might use to send an object at a target. Varying the speed a student uses when trying to get around a defender in an invasion game. Using different relationships skills like adjusting one's position to ensure an opponent doesn't receive an object or score a point; appropriately backing up a teammate when support is needed to defend their goal/zone.


Consistently teaching with a focus on Laban's concepts, helps provide a supportive environment for students to adjust, improve, and combine body, space, effort, and relationship skills in different PE contexts and hopefully, transfer beyond the subject area.


"Physical education programs that are based on Laban’s movement framework have a better chance of helping children reach their movement potential because the four aspects (space, body, effort, & relationships) of movement complement and reinforce one another" (Langton, 2007).


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