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Planning your session

Planning your session

20 May 2014

The following should be considered as a series of quick 'tips' to help you improve your delivery of the learning area resources. It is not designed as an exhaustive list of what you can do and how you can do it. There are many more books and sources for more detailed information should you require it. There are a few basic ingredients that are the key to the success of any workshops of this kind and it's important to keep these in mind before planning your session. There should be:

  • a clear presentation of training objectives at the beginning of each session (what people need to know/do by the end of the session)
  • 50% of interaction such as role play, video, guest speakers such as professional officials or athletes, and group discussion
  • a bottom-up participative facilitation style (using the participants' resources and building on their experience)
  • regular breaks to help focus the mind before moving onto the next activity
  • an evaluation of the course by the trainees.


  • 'Knowledge' alone, and by that we are referring to the rules and laws of the game, is not enough for today's official. Knowledge will only get you so far. Your ability to apply that knowledge in a pressure situation, and your attitude towards the participants, coaches and spectators will collectively determine your skill as an official.
  • The one-way transfer of knowledge using resources such as PowerPoint is not as effective in increasing competence in the ability to officiate by those doing the learning.
  • In planning your session, it is important to remember that you are providing the learner with 'knowledge', 'attributes' and 'skills' in order to officiate more competently. You need to emphasise the acquisition of 'skills and attributes' as an indispensable 'add on' to the basic knowledge of the rules of the game, which the official may/should already have.

Key concepts used in facilitating learning


Knowledge is the awareness and understanding of facts, truths or information gained in the form of experience or learning or through introspection. Knowledge is an appreciation of the possession of interconnected details which, in isolation, are of lesser value.

  • To know = pure theoretical knowledge
  • Know how = the application of knowledge.

The following are suitable for training knowledge

  1. Formal lecture
  2. Mini-lecture
  3. Interactive lecture with student active breaks
  4. Reading
  5. Audio visual materials (video of sports events etc)
  6. Case studies of specific sports events
  7. Individual research (internet, library etc)
  8. Group discussion.

Weekend sports events (observations, Q&A with officials during the game about rules and their application etc).


Attributes refer to what you want them to feel. This includes learners' values, beliefs, biases, emotions and role expectations that may influence the management of participants during a game.

The following are suitable for learning about attributes:

  1. Group discussion
  2. Exploration of personal attitudes in response to typical game scenarios
  3. Focus groups
  4. Exposure to views and values using real or 'simulated' players, videos and websites
  5. Role plays.

Weekend sports events (observations, discussions with officials after the game about the choices they made etc).


Skills are the actual abilities to put specific knowledge into practice (performance or officiating competence).

  • Show how = demonstrate the ability to use specific knowledge or adopt specific attitudes
  • Do = demonstrate in their official's role that they have integrated the objectives of the course.

The following are suitable for training skills:

  1. Simulations (using other officials in the room to create a scenario where there is uncertainty from the official on how to rule, role plays around dialogue between officials and others involved)
  2. Observed officiating with after-match discussion and feedback
  3. Video-taping games
  4. Guidelines for good practice, including checklists and handouts
  5. Group discussion.

Weekend sports events (observations, discussions with officials after the game etc).

Main steps in planning a session

Once you have decided in broad terms what learning area you're going to cover, who your audience is and the order of the activities, you need to:

  • Set your learning objectives. Because these objectives are for the learners, it is strongly recommended you discuss these with them.
  • Choose what the activities will be to achieve the learning objectives.
  • Decide how you will evaluate your learning objectives to see if you have met them.

Setting your learning objectives

Your objectives should be based on three different sets of information:

  • The general knowledge, attitudes and skills needed in the specific NSO in which you work.
  • Your own knowledge of the local area in which your officials are based - population demographics, physical environment, common officiating issues etc.
  • The needs of the specific group of learners that you are teaching in relation to their current knowledge, attitudes and skills. An initial needs assessment can be carried out by handing out an assessment in advance of the course and/or at the beginning of the session. This assessment can be found in the Development toolkit.

Using the resources and planning the course

A key part of the Officials site is the Learning areas, which contain a number of resources to support the learning. These resources have been built so they can be used in a group situation or as self-study. Each resource can be used on its own, but it is recommended that you ensure learning areas such as the rules and laws of the game have been covered by individuals before tackling specific modules such as Conflict management. Learning areas contain a number of resources such as:

  • a session plan for those taking group sessions
  • participant information
  • activity cards for use in a workshop or self-study.

Learning objectives are always expressed from the point of view of the learner and relate to the different dimensions of learning: cognitive (knowledge), affective (attributes) or technical competence (skills).

When participants meet for the first time, it is recommended that they should first spend a while discussing what their challenges are in officiating and why they're here. This allows the participants to get to know each other and to exchange common frustrations, successes and approaches. This is especially important for audiences involving professionals from various backgrounds and cultures.

Methods in detail

  • The formal presentation: The advantages of the formal presentation are it can be structured, use low technology, and offer the ability to train many learners in a short period of time. The main disadvantage is that the learners are passive recipients of information. Formal presentations are often considered to be optimal if speaking time is limited to 20 to 30 minutes followed by a 'discussion period' of a roughly equal length.
  • The interactive presentation with active breaks involving the students: A formal presentation may be enhanced by strategies which involve the learners. With a little creativity, you could include several different methods such as 'problem-solving exercises' and 'case studies', which deliberately engage the learners in a more active process. You can also use 'active breaks involving students' during which the learners discuss specific issues concerning the presented learning area with one another.
  • Reading: The efficiency of the learner's reading is greatly increased if they are given a specific list of references to draw on and a number of explicit questions to answer from their reading. A review of specific laws and their interpretations, as well as journal articles and textbooks, is an efficient method for gathering available information.
  • Weekend sports (observations, discussions with officials etc): Learners are invited to go out to various weekend sports settings to observe officials' behaviours and engage them in relevant discussions. The observations can provide a unique opportunity for many learners to gain first-hand experience of the various distractions that an official has to deal with.
  • Case studies: Case studies are real-life sporting moments that can be used in class to illustrate common issues and the range of responses encountered in sports officiating. Case studies may be presented for general class discussion, for use in small work groups, or as an impetus for role playing. They allow the learners to practice applying recently acquired knowledge and to obtain views from other officials in the class. The cases chosen for any particular topic should be complex enough to 'bring up' the major points for discussion. Another efficient and useful source of case studies is the learners themselves, who can present examples from their own officiating experience.
  • Individual research (the Internet, the library etc): It is the facilitator's role to steer the learner to relevant resources in such a way that they understand how they can in the future use these resources by themselves. The advantage is that this approach promotes 'self-directed' learning. The disadvantage is that it is time-consuming and depends on the motivation of the learner.
  • Group discussion: Discussions can be used in many different training situations and they help to promote an understanding about the different views and opinions that may arise from sporting situations. While the interaction it induces amongst peers is valuable it needs, where possible, to be structured and directed by the trainer to obtain maximum benefit. The trainer's skills in questioning, keeping the discussion focused, and summarising are vitally important.
  • Simulations (role play): The 'role play', where learners assume the roles of different people involved in a sporting moment and try through spontaneous acting to provide the right response to keep the game flowing, is easy to implement and does not normally need many resources. It allows learners to try new techniques, experience different roles, actively test their ideas and reactions, make mistakes and repeat their performance until a skill is achieved. The performances can be video-taped for feedback or used as audio visual resources in other situations.
  • Observed officiating: The classical approach to this is 'see one; do one; coach one'. A learner watches a demonstration by an experienced official, then practises the skills demonstrated under supervision, with feedback on their performance. Finally, they coach a fellow learner to consolidate and condense the key elements of the experience. The development and use of checklists can enhance this approach.
  • Video-taping officiating situations: Common sporting situations which can cause confusion for the official can be video-taped for use as a teaching tool and are especially good for stimulating dialogue about good and bad practices.
  • Exploration of personal attitudes: Methods to facilitate learner 'attitude openness' and 'introspection' include individual exercises in self-reflection, group discussion and focus groups. To elaborate a non-judgemental approach to the practice of sports officiating, exercises are designed to expose the learners to situations where they have to reflect on or confront their own beliefs, values and attitudes which might influence the way in which they manage a game. For example, events involving high-profile sports figures or players that have often been involved in controversial situations may be used to provoke group discussion. Here individual learners are challenged to inspect their personal attitudes, and the roots of their individual reactions, to common participant and spectator responses.
  • Focus groups: Focus groups are made up of 8 to 12 learners and are normally set up with the purpose of carrying out an in-depth exploration of a variety of views around a particular topic. Focus groups represent a 'brainstorming' session, with the objective of obtaining as wide a range of views as possible rather than attempting to gain a consensus view.

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