June 02, 2011

Developing Learning Outcomes in Intramural Sports
to Address Unsporting Behavior

Kurt D. Klier, CRSS
Intramural Sports Director
Campus Recreation Services
University of Maryland

How many times have we, as intramural professionals, had to deal with unsporting behavior? Is the time we spend training our students on how to deal with comments such as “hey ref you suck” effective? How do we know? Developing Learning Outcomes for Intramural Sports may seem superfluous but they will be an invaluable tool in understanding and documenting what your student employees are learning. As Student Affairs employees, we believe that the scope of learning is not limited to the classroom; rather, it involves all aspects of a student’s experience, including Intramural Sports.

First, it is important to determine the relevance of your Outcomes as they relate to the mission statement and/or strategic plan of the University or Program. We determined that effectively managing unsporting behavior supports the core values of Campus Recreation Services, to ‘develop students and professional staff’ and to ‘promote safety and minimize risk.’  The goal also contributes to one aspect of the Mission of the Division of Student Affairs to ‘…promote student development.’

Secondly, after you develop your Learning Outcomes have someone else review them. Choose a fellow recreational colleague, a colleague outside recreation who has knowledge and understanding of Learning Outcomes, or choose a student. Have them review what you developed and determine if they can understand and reproduce your outcomes. The process of having someone review what you developed will help you determine if the Learning Outcomes are clear.

When developing Outcomes for identifying and managing unsporting behavior for our intramural student supervisors we focused on the Interpersonal & Intrapersonal Competence and Practical Competence from Learning Reconsidered 2. To that end, we developed five objectives, or specific outcomes, that specified what student employees will know or be able to do as a result of their participation in our Fall Training program. Each student employee should be able to demonstrate the ability of identifying and managing unsporting behavior by:

  1. DEFINING unsporting behavior
  2. IDENTIFYING the CHARACTERISTICS of unsporting behavior
  3. RECOGNIZING the modes of occurrence
  4. IDENTIFYING the EFFECTS of unsporting behavior
  5. DEMONSTRATING officiating strategies and tools to manage unsporting behavior.

In order to measure these competencies we created an Unsporting Behavior Rubric. The five aforementioned objectives were listed down the left column and the four levels of accomplishments listed across the top. Our desired threshold for success was that by the end of fall training, 85% of the student employees will meet or exceed the Level 3 tier of accomplishment.

For example, using the first objective, defining unsporting behavior, the four levels of accomplishments for that objective are:

  • LEVEL 1: not able to provide a definition of unsporting behavior
  • LEVEL 2: Able to provide a partial definition of unsporting behavior but does not show understanding
  • LEVEL 3: Able to provide an acceptable definition of unsporting behavior that shows understanding
  • LEVEL 4: Able to define unsporting behavior as unfair, unethical, or dishonorable conduct

After our Fall Training, which was out first attempt using Learning Outcomes, we found that although our assessment showed student employees achieved a Level 3 or 4 of accomplishment for the first four objectives, most scored only at a Level 2 or 3 for the fifth objective, ‘demonstrating officiating strategies and tools to manage unsporting behavior.’ Addressing this deficiency, an addition to the Assessment Schedule was made by directly observing the intramural student supervisors during intramural games thus creating actual, in the moment case studies.

Secondly, we were able to adapt future trainings to include role play situations that demonstrated the different game control tools. Game control tools discussed and demonstrated were:

  • The ‘quiet word’ for mild infringements
  • The ‘public warning’ – a stronger tactic for situations where behavior is pronounced and apparent to others
  • The ‘captains meeting’ which is form of a public warning where both teams demonstrate inappropriate behavior which is apparent
  • The ‘intermediate penalty’ such as a Yellow Card, an Unsportsmanlike Conduct Foul, or the use of a Technical Foul, all with direct consequences
  • ‘Ejection’ the last course of action available is necessary when that individual’s behavior has gone well beyond the limits of acceptable conduct and is compromising the game.

Each role play situation:

  • Showed situations that can be applied universally to different sports
  • Demonstrated proper and improper methods
  • Docused on analyzing behavior, examining effect, and diagnosing the appropriate remedy (Cause, Effect, and Consequences)
  • Provided a teaching technique for officials to better handle unsporting behavior.

Well developed learning outcomes are also adaptable to various learning environments. For example, this assessment was also used for sports officials with the US Army Installation Management Command in Schwetzingen, Germany and Vicenza, Italy with similar findings. We were able to recognize this through observation using the rubric during acted out play situations.

Designing learning outcomes and assessment measures allows you to understand and observe what students are learning. After evaluating the outcomes, follow up with more deficiency focused training and you can determine if the officials are able to transfer this learning to on-field scenarios. This formal approach to assessment helped us to identify the gaps between what we intended to teach students and what they actually learned.

Learning is ‘most effective if it incorporates many models of learning into many different contexts’ (Fortman). Trainers of student employees should be aware that teaching methods used in the past may no longer be effective. For example, advances in technology and its ubiquity has certainly impacted the way students want to learn. Once we were able to identify that our student employees were below a Level 3 on their ability to demonstrate officiating strategies and tools to manage unsporting behavior, we made adjustments. We started directly observing the intramural student supervisors during intramural games, introduced an end of the semester review, and will now include role play situations during training.

We discovered that formally designing and assessing learning outcomes allowed us to identify deficiencies in desired outcomes (knowledge and skills). Understanding the discrepancy between what we expected students to learn and what they could demonstrate they learned allowed us to tailor our training methods to the needs of our students and thus improve their experience as well as our program.


Keeling, R. (Ed). (2006). Learning Reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACU-I, NAAA, NACA, NASPA, NIRSA.

Fortman, T.T. (2008) Abstract. Validation of the College Recreational Sports Learning Outcome Instrument: A Longitudinal Investigation. The National Research Institute College Recreational Sports and Wellness. The Ohio State University

Gaskins, D and Klier, K (2007): Power Point: “Flag Football Unsporting Behavior: A New Approach”. NIRSA Flag Football Officials Pre Conference Workshop, Minneapolis, MN.

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