January 1, 2001
Copyright © 2001, PE Central

Teacher enthusiasm has been identified as a prominent teacher behavior that effects student learning (Carlise & Phillips, 1984). Although enthusiasm is a difficult behavior to label, it is an important behavior for teachers to exhibit. "Enthusiasm affects student learning and attitudes" (Caruso, 1982, p. 47). There are other important practices (e.g., appropriate feedback) which Physical Educators must exhibit in order to be more effective teachers. The combination of high levels of enthusiasm, and properly timed, appropriate feedback in your Physical Education class may provide students with greater opportunities for learning. Students may actually show more improvement while learning physical skills when their teachers exhibit higher enthusiasm behaviors, and the use of feedback provides students with information on how they are doing in some skill-related aspect of your classes. Teachers who are more enthusiastic spend more time in "presentation time and in positive performance feedback" (Carlisle & Phillips, 1984, p. 74). There are many types of feedback, but the ones addressed here specifically are descriptive and prescriptive feedback. Why are enthusiasm and feedback so important? What is the link between these two concepts? Both enthusiasm and feedback from the teacher provide students with an increased ability to learn what is being taught. For Physical Educators, this is a winning combination.

So the question becomes how to implement higher levels of enthusiasm and appropriate feedback. Here are some ideas to use as a springboard.

Characteristics of Enthusiastic Instruction

Behaviors that indicate enthusiasm can be described as a group of both positive verbal and nonverbal behaviors, which convey an inner attitude of the teacher outwardly, to the students. The students are able to pick on this teacher attitude and will be able to respond in a way that is beneficial to their learning. Here are some of the tools with which you may be able to promote enthusiasm.

Enthusiastic Teacher Behaviors

Vary your speaking voice. It's uninspiring to listen to someone drone on and on without changes in inflection. Change the pitch of your voice, the tone and the volume. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and it helps hold the listenersā attention if you have variations in your speech÷from quiet whispers to louder, more excited speech.

Eyes mirror the excitement in your teaching. Your eyes can be used more to your advantage if you sometimes open them wide, or raise your eyebrows. Look students directly in the eye as you show interest in what they are doing, rather than looking up or down, or not looking at them. That way you listen with your eyes, as well as speak with them

Body language. We use our bodies to model skills in our classes whenever we provide demonstrations. We are effectively providing many, many communications that are nonverbal. Use these nonverbal communications wisely. Students can pick up on these quite easily. They can tell if you are excited about whatever it is you are attempting to teach them, or if you are not. Enthusiasm can be expressed in the gestures and motions you give as you teach your lesson. Make sweeping motions with the whole arm, clap your hands when the students have done well; give them signs of approval, such as the Īthumbs up,ā or perhaps a high five. Give the "Ok" sign. Use your hands and face to express pleasure or displeasure. Allow your body to swing around energetically. Be just a little unpredictable; donāt stand in the same place all class period÷move around, (keeping your back to the wall), so you can see everything that is going on. You will also be able to monitor your studentsā actions more closely, and will keep them more on-task.

Facial expression. Your facial expressions divulge inner feelings. Pleasant facial expressions are an easy way to show excitement about your lessons. Use facial expressions to show your excitement about what it is you are presenting in your lesson. Express your emotions; smile, show your happiness, your disappointment. Act as though you are deep in thought; display your joy, excitement, and amusement. Students generally want to please you. Express that pleasure via your face when students are successful at the tasks you ask them to perform.

Encouragement. Encouragement is a necessary component that is inherent within teacher behaviors. All of your students need encouragement to be able to do their best. Encouragement is typified as teaching behaviors which express supportiveness; an "Iām on your team attitude." It is the inspiration, stimulation or a sincere complement given to students. It is a way of instilling confidence in your students. They draw on your belief in them. Encouragement is a way of attempting to motivate students to continued participation in an activity. You can push your students to higher levels of learning and achievement by telling them through your encouragement that they can do it, they can perform the task you have them working on. Be liberal in your praises and prompts. Teacher use of encouragement is often transmitted to students in the form of feedback.


The two types of feedback typically given in physical education classes are descriptive (general) and prescriptive (specific) feedback. General feedback is just that; general. These types of feedback describe in vague, general terms the teacherās reaction to a skill attempt. This type of feedback is somewhat social reinforcing. Examples of such statements are: "Good job," "Way to go," or "You can do it," and "Thatās great." These types of statements donāt tell the students exactly what is good, nor do they give him/her information to be used in the next skill attempt. On the other hand, prescriptive, or specific feedback is the type of feedback that most students need. The types of feedback that are prescriptive and specific in nature are statements such as "Turn sideways," "Follow through," or "Use the instep, not the toe to kick." Statements that are specifically skill-related are the types of feedback studentās need as they learn motor skills. These particular examples of feedback are qualitative in nature; that is, they describe the processes of the movement as it is being performed.

An analogy to the teacher giving specific, skill-related feedback would be that of a doctor diagnosing an illness, and then giving you a prescription to fix it. Prescriptive feedback guides the student in fixing the problem or improving the skill performance.

Feedback is a necessary part of learning a motor task, however, the type of task presented may lend itself to giving some environmental task-related types of outcome-based feedback, such as seeing the ball go through the hoop. This environmental type of feedback would reduce the studentsā need for teacher feedback (Lee, Keh & Magill, p. 239). For instance, in a skill for which a demonstration is provided that easily allows the student to see how to perform the skill correctly, there may be less need for the teacher to give feedback. This need for feedback may be directly related to the level of the learner. If the student is experienced, or the skill is a simple one, then perhaps "teacher feedback may not be necessary at all for some skills" (Lee, Keh & Magill, 1993, p. 235). This is where the importance of effective teaching comes in. Teachers who provide specific, skill related feedback to students assist them in learning the skill at a faster rate. These teachers structure the class in a way that provides necessary practice opportunities, as well as give skill-related feedback at appropriate times. Learning would not occur without these critical elements.

With these concepts in mind, how can you use this knowledge in your classes? Start by analyzing the skill to be taught. Is it something that is going to need to be verbally assisted? Can the environment give the students clues as to whether or not the skill is being performed correctly? If so, then perhaps these environmental cues should provide the feedback. Give the performance-related cues to the students, and allow them to learn from their mistakes. Allow them to perform a critical self-evaluation of how they are performing. This can be done by:

  • Providing checklists with pictures of the skills and the cue words beside the photos.
  • Team students up and have them check each other on the skill-related components.
  • You may wish to videotape your students, have them learn to verbalize the critical components of the skill. Then have them sit in a group and analyze each other to see if the skill is being done correctly. Having them call out a simple yes or no will suffice.
  • Allow the students to provide their own feedback, and in addition to their learning the task, you will have students who know how to perform the skill, and are not dependent upon your feedback.

Lastly, realize that complex skills, or those skills in which the learner cannot see their own body parts and how they are performing (in relation to the task) are in need of feedback from the teacher or coach.

Enthusiasm and feedback are both vital parts of the effective teacherās repertoire. Why does enthusiasm produce these effects? One cause may be that the studentsā attention is held longer by a teacher who can engage the studentās attention for longer periods of time. When studentsā attention is engaged, then student achievement may be higher. Another idea is that "students, consciously or unconsciously, model the attitude the teacher exhibits toward the content. If enthusiastic teachers appear to have a positive attitude toward the content being taught, students may model this attitude and concentrate more, think about the topic more, associate more positive feelings toward the subject, and consequently achieve more" (Brigham, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 1992, p. 73). The expression of your personal enthusiasm will provide your students with increased motivation, more time on task, and will help your students learn the task you have set before them. These two components of effective teaching can make all the difference towards having a class that is not only more teaching fun for you, but also more learning fun for your students.


Brigham, F. J., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (1992). Teacher enthusiasm in learning disabilities classrooms: effects on learning and behavior. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 7, 68-73.

Carlisle, C. & Phillips, D. A. (1984). The effects of enthusiasm training on selected teacher and student behaviors in preservice physical education teachers. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 4, 64-75.

Caruso, V. M. (1982). Enthusiastic teaching. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 53, 47-48.

Dauer, V. & Pangrazi, R. Video Series (1989). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Lee, A. M., Keh, N. C. & Magill, R. A. (1993). Instructional effects of teacher feedback in physical education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 12, 228-243.

Magill, R. A. (1994). The influence of augmented feedback on skill learning depends on characteristics of the skill and the learner. Quest, 46, 314-327.

Rosenshine, B. (1970). Enthusiastic teaching: a research review. School Review, 78, 499-514.

Silverman, S. (1994). Communication and motor skills learning: what we learn from research in the gymnasium. Quest, 4, 345-355.

This article used by permission of the authors.
Copyright © 2001, PE Central

To reference:

Parson, Monica. "Enthusiasm and Feedback: A Winning Combination!". PE Central. 1 Jan. 2001. Online. http://www.pecentral.org/climate/monicaparsonarticle.html.