Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.3, 165-171
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2013.43024
The Pupil’s Discourse and Action Projects: The Case of Third
Year High School Pupils in Tunisia
Makram Zghibi1, Hajer Sahli2, Nabila Bennour3, Chamseddine Guinoubi2,4,
Maher Guerchi2, Moez Hamdi2
1LASELDI, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
2Higher Institute of Sports and Physical Education, Kef, Tunisia
3UMR EFTS, Mirail University of Toulouse I I, Toulouse, France
4Research Laboratory “Sports Performance Optimization”, National Center of Medicine and Science in Sports,
Tunis, Tunisia
Received January 14th, 2013; revised February 19th, 2013; accepted March 3rd, 2013
The purpose of this paper is to describe the language interaction of pupils in a football game situation and
to show how the action plans are implemented. We have opted for a descriptive/exploratory methodology
that seeks to convey the pupil’s language typologies: 8 sessions lasting one hour each with 14 boys aged
18 years and T = 8 hours of actual practice. The goal is to help pupils to understand what happens during
the play situation in order to co-construct and implement a project of collective action. The study includes:
1) a qualitative analysis (Roulet, 1987) of Team “A” which aims to identify action projects developed by
the boys, 2) a quantitative analysis of the same team (Gréhaigne, Billiards, & Laroche, 1999) seeking to
check the implementation of these projects. The quantitative study showed that pupils were able to vali-
date their action plans during the eight sessions. These results should be linked to the notion of “commu-
nication contract”. Indeed, in every act of communication, partners understand and interact with each
other by validating what makes sense to them, namely: “the collective intentions” (Searle, 1991), “joint
intentionality” (Sensevy, 2008) and “negotiation” (Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 1984).
Keywords: Oral Verbalization; Action Project; Game; Football
The semio-constructivist approach in physical and sports
education and particularly in team sports is a new and innova-
tive approach of research in didactics of physical activities and
sport. Recent studies carried out in this framework have fo-
cused on the main role of language interaction in the co-con-
struction of knowledge (Gréhaigne et al., 2001; Wallian, 2003;
Mahut, 2003; Nachon, 2004; Zerrai, 2006, 2010; Chang, 2009;
Zghibi, 2009, 2010, 2012). These studies have emphasized the
importance of verbalization in the teaching/learning process. It
is in this context that this study seeks to identify the implemen-
tation of action projects developed by pupils in discursive con-
text. “If the Tunisian cultural model naturally assigns roles and
hierarchies within a given class, pupils can also reinterpret them
according to the opportunities for personal enhancement and/or
to the power relations during exchanges between peers. In the
case of football, more specifically, the interpersonal relation-
ships during the match will redefine, during the ball exchanges,
actions and their effects, allowing thus during the dialogue and
through dialogue a true co-construction of the collective action”
(Zghibi, 2012: p. 7). In fact, any formulated wording conveys a
definite meaning, obtained by combining the differ ent semantic
meaning of the words that constitute it. These words are orga-
nized according to strict well defined syntactic rules. Now how
about the context?
The intervention of the context, i.e. the situation in which the
discourse is delivered, radically changes the logic of things, so
much that the meaning produced by utterance situation takes
over that of the first meaning in the beginning. This difference
in meanings, between what is said and what is referred has been
a study topic by pragmatics. Consequently this linguistic branch
deals with the language elements whose meaning cannot be
understood unless the context is known when “saying is doing”
(Austin, 1970).
In this research we will opt for an illustrative analysis of pu-
pil’s discourse during a football cycle, based on discursive ex-
amples and which would be done through two conversational
analyses: a hierarchical analysis and functional analysis. The
objective is to identify qualitatively the pupil’s action project
and then check whether quantitatively these projects are vali-
dated or not.
In our study we will look at two types of analyses, a qualita-
tive and quantitative analyses of verbal outputs of the third year
high school pupils who practice football within a civil club
(Dahmani Athletic Club, League III, juniors, average age: 18
The research protocol proposed in this study consists in or-
ganizing a series of a ten session football cycle lasting one ef-
fective hour each (eight and a half hours of motor and verbal
activity observed and recorded). The teaching process during
these sessions will constitute an opportunity for pupils to ex-
change ideas freely in order to build action projects. This will
encourage pupils to try to find answers for the problems en-
countered during the game. This study concerned 14 pupils
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 165
from the Dahmani high school. This choice finds its legitimacy
in the fact that didactic studies acknowledge that at this level,
the pupil is generally able to analyze, understand and especially
to problematize independently from his teacher and thus par-
ticipate in the knowledge construction process, by referring to
the proposed situations and looking for means and ways to
address the problems. This is part of the educational principle
of Gréhaigne (1992) “understand to succeed” which allows the
problematization of the difficulties encountered during action.
The situations proposed are founded on a game situation, on
a 40 m long and 20 m wide handball court. Each session (ses-
sion unit) has two game situations (two games) under the con-
trol of the teacher and separated by a five minute time sequence
for the exchange of ideas (Gréhaigne et al., 1998) and always
monitored by a specialist teacher in this field.
In this research we are dealing with a purely descriptive
analysis which seeks to convey the pupil’s language typologies
through analysis models taken from the sciences of language
(Roulet, 1981). The purpose of this experiment is to enable all
pupils to take part in the knowledge building process, from
situations experienced during the game. They are then re-
quested to analyze and understand what is happening during the
play situation, to build a plan of action and check whether the
project is actually applied in the field or not.
Pupils play for ten minutes and then they talk for five minu-
tes before they resume the game (10 minutes) to execute the
action plan decided by each team. During the verbalization
sequences, pupils discuss their proposed action project to solve
the problems experienced in the first game situation, discus-
sions and debating ideas enable learners to negotiate the mean-
ing of the game actions. The second situation seeks to deter-
mine whether the proposed action is executed or not. The situa-
tion of ideas debating is organized in order to allow pupils to
exchange intentions concerning the action, orally (Chang,
2009). In this study, we will opt for two types of analyses: a
qualitative analysis interested in how the exchange of ideas
took place and a quantitative analysis to check the execution
and implementation of such an action project. In other words,
we will check whether this project will be implemented or not
in the second game situation. This tool was developed to assess
the correlation of forces and powers in football in order to have
a better description of the evolution of adversarial relationships.
These indices are as follows: the game volume, (total number
of balls played), defensive capabilities (balls taken away from
the opponent), adaptation to the game (number of lost balls),
player’s offensive capabilities (penalties) and efficiency index
(goals scored) (Gréhaigne, Billiards, & Laroche, 1999). Finally,
it should be noted that this analysis will concern the 1st, 4th and
8th sessions. This choice can be justified by the fact that we
consider that three sessions are enough and allow us to identify
such a discursive progress.
The Qualitative Analysis, Description and
Identification of Pupil’s Action Projects
The results of this section highlight the production and ex-
traction of action projects during the verbalization sequences.
At this level we shall opt for a hierarchical and functional de-
scription of the pupil’s verbal outputs (oral verbalization), and
subsequently identify the team’s action project during each
session. In addition, during the second played situation, pupils
try to implement their plan of action which resulted from the
debate. The goal is to measure the impact.
Session 1
Team “A”: oral verbalization
The discourse can be presented in the following Table 1 ac-
cording to two types of analyses: hierarchical and functional.
As shown in Table 1, for Camara, the team needs to change
its game by increasing the marking of the opponent players and
facilitating the ball exchanges. According to Charfi, what justi-
fies the failure is the lack of connection between the offensive
and defensive parts. He suggests a closer link between the two
parts. A practical solution formulated later by Charfi consists in
two incentives: one fosters a more emphasis on the midfield
and the other one consists in keeping the ball longer. Dekker
seems to be angry because of the excessive selfishness of play-
ers who use individual game excessively. This is why, ac-
cording to him, too, the solution is to increase the ball ex-
Table 1.
Hierarchical and functional analysis of the speech of Team “A”.
Pupil’s name Discourse Hierarchical analysis Functional analysis
Camara We do not call fo r the ball Language act (A1) Reproach/indicating a cause
Charfi There is no link between attack and defence
Someone must be in midfield
We must keep the ball Intervention (I1) Remarking a cause
A practical solution
Dekker Each one will play separately
We give the ball to the closest c o-player and we u se short passesIntervention (I2) Explanatory observation
Remediation proposa l
Youssef We have lost concentra t ion A language act (A2) An explanation
Med Ali We must concentrate more on positions in the field A language act (A3) A proposal
Camara Lack of marking of the oppo n e n t t e a m A language act (A4) Observing a shortcoming
Youssef We need a defender at the backfield and midfield player.
We have to catch the ball in the o p p onent’s camp. B Intervention (I3) 2 team’s remediation propos-
Charfi I would like to insist on short passes A language act (A5) A proposal
Camara We have to shoot the ball against opponents’ cage A language act (A6) A proposal
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
changes and to develop group collective automatisms. Youssef
explains the lack of success by the loss of concentration during
the game. Expanding Youssef’s explanation, Med Ali proposes
the recovery of a better concentration and a better positioning
of players on the field. Camara remarked an additional short-
coming in the player’s performance. They are not marking the
opponent team tightly. Adding to what his teammate Camara
said, Youssef proposes placing a backfield defender and a game
maker in the midfield in order to recover the ball in the oppo-
nent’s camp and exert more pressure. For both of them, ball
immediate catching and exerting pressure must be enhanced
with exchanging short passes and crowned by shots towards the
goal. This discourse can be presented as follows in the Figure
1. It should be noted that in this analysis we shall opt for the
same legend: (A: Act of language, I: Intervention and E: Ex-
change of words). During the conversational interaction, we
have seen that most interventions are of propositional type.
More statements are made in order to propose rules of action on
short passes as well as ball retention. The proposals are made in
one must do this or that” form, which means that the language
act indicates an obligation made in the form of a proposal. Each
speaker tries to impose himself discursively and impose his
point of view to convince his teammates.
The exchange dynamics show a different use of the form “I
insist”. Therefore there is it sort of interaction seeking a certain
tutelage or authority by most pupils during the collective action
project construction process. This obligation which is formu-
lated and repeated during this discourse reflects the need to
study it.
Session 4
Team “A”: oral verbalization
The discourse presented in Table 2 would account for both
analyzes: a hie rarchical and a functio nal.
It is half-time now and Team “A” is leading about. As shown
in Table 2, all players participate in the discursive exchange,
dominated more or less by Camara, but Sami, Wissem and
Charfi also produce interesting discourse acts. Camara, who
appreciates the effort and concentration and the lead taking
advantage, acknowledges however the squandering of shots,
which were not made at the goal. He suggests tighter marking
of the opponent players and exerting more pressure at the
attack level. For Wissem, the most difficult task has been done,
however the team needs to use the opportunities to score more
goals. Dekker seems to nourish doubt about the efficiency of
Mohamed Ali and therefore requests a defensive curtain in the
midfield. Charfi suggests a better coordination between the
attack and defense and encourages attackers to take more initia-
tives to score more goals, an idea which seems to be shared by
Mohamed Ali who insists on the importance of good position-
ing in the field. This discourse can be analyzed as displayed in
Figure 2.
The results of the sequence presented in Figure 2 demon-
strate a richer exchange, where the majority of players inter-
vene either by identifying problems or making solution propos-
als. Indeed, some pupils underscore the lack of efficiency due
to missed shots. The other pupils tend to make solution sugges-
tions, namely a stronger defense and more attacks.
Session 8
Team “A”: Oral Verbalization
The discourse presented in Table 3 would account for both
analyzes: a hie rarchical and a functio nal.
The team was again victorious. Players are pleased to have
provided a good performance thanks to the effort of Youssef
who played collectively and thus relaunched and boosted the
game (Testimony by Dekker and Camara). But, as shown in the
Table 3, Med Ali advises a more rapid game with more calls
for the ball. Camara suggests reducing ball retention in the
midfield and playing short passes with the nearest team mate.
This can be illustrated as presented in the Figure 3.
The discussion of the pupils shows a certain satisfaction with
regard to the score during the first game situation; however this
does not prevent the existence of some problems. For that rea-
son, pupils have decided to keep the ball longer.
Quantitative Analysis: Checking the Implementation
of Team “A” Pupil’s Action Projects
This section focuses on the quantitative verification of the
implementation of the action plans developed by the boys. To
do this, we have opted for an observation table that shows five
parameters namely: the game volume (total number of balls
played), defensive capabilities (balls taken away from the
Problems Proposals Action project
Short passes and
balls retention
A1 A2 A4 A3 A5 A6
I1 I2 I3
Figure 1.
Pupils’ action project during session 1 (team 1).
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 167
Table 2.
Hierarchical and functional analysis of Team “A” pupils’ d isc ourse.
Pupil’s name Discourse Hierarchical analysis Functional analysis
Camara We have to mark opponent players Langu a g e a c t (A1) Proposal
Med Ali I insist on the good position in the field Language act (A2) Proposal
Sami How did we play? An attacker and the others play a dual role. (Defence
and attack) Language act (A3) Proposal
Camara This is the first time that we concentrate and won
Many shots are not o n target Intervention (I1) Positive observation
Negative observation
Wissem The most difficult has been done but not th e easiest. We couldn’t score
because of the cage Language act (A4) Observation
Charfi In front of the cage players must take the initiative and score goals Language act (A5) Proposal
Camara For me, I took the ba l l w i t h t h e c a g e behind me and I needed to pass on
the ball to Sami Intervention (I2) Justification
Dekker Dali is not in an attacking position Language act (A6) Criticism
Charfi We continue the same way with a defence block Language act (A7) Proposal
Med Ali We block the mid-fie ld player Language a c t (A8) Proposal
Dekker A defensive wall in the midfield Language act (A9) Proposal
Camara We need to exert more pressure at the attack level
3 in the midfield attempts to hamper the movement of the ball betw ee n
the opposite team players. Intervention (I3) 3 proposals
Sami Same formation Language act (A10) Proposal
Charfi Coordination between at tack and defence Language act (A11) Proposal
Problems Proposals Action p roject
Double role playing
(attack and defense)
A1 A2
I1 I2
Figure 2.
Pupils’ action proje cts during session 4 (Team “A”).
Problems Proposals Action pr oj ec t
Keeping the longer ball
A1 A2 A4
I2 I3
Figure 3.
Pupils’ action project for session 8 (Team “A”).
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 169
Table 3.
Hierarchical and functional analyses of the Team “A” pupils’ discourse.
Pupil’s name Discourse Hierarchical analysis Functional analysis
Dekker The game im proved when Youssef played collectively Language act (A1) Positive observation
Charfi A good passing aroun d of the ball Language act (A2) Positive observation
Camara When Youssef received the b a ll , he improved the game
We played slowly but surely Intervention (I1) 2 positive o b servations
Youssef Goo d , we have to keep playing like this Language act (A3) Encouragement
Sami We shot at the goal twice and we scored a goal Language act (A4) Positive observation
Med Ali The game m ust be quicker, we h ave to m a ke m ore calls for the b allIntervention (I2) Proposal
Camara We have to reduce ba ll retention
You have to pass on the ball to the nearest teammate
Intervention (I3) 2 proposals
Dekker Sami is too far backwar d Language act (A5) Negative observation
opponent players), adaptation to the game (number of lost balls)
offensive capabilities of the players (penalties) and the index of
efficiency (goals scored) (Gréhaigne, Billiards, & Laroche,
It should be noted in this regard that the verification of pu-
pil’s actions projects will be independent of the meaning of any
statistical processing. This choice can be justified by the fact
that the objective is not to prove such a statistically significant
difference before/after verbalization for such a setting. But the
goal is, rather, to follow descriptively, the quantitative progress
of this game indicator (Zerrai, 2010). For example, if the pu-
pils’ action project is to increase the number of shots and they
manage to make a second shot during the second situation,
when compared with the second situation; the action project is
thus deemed to be valid.
Figure 4.
Presents the verification of the Team “A” pupils’ action project, in
terms of played balls.
Session 1
Figure 4 presents the verification of the Team “A” pupils’
action project, in terms of played balls.
The results presented in Figure 4, shown that the number of
balls played before the verbalization sequence is (16). After this
sequence, it goes down to (15). The proposed action (increasing
the number of played balls) already stated by pupils is not thus
Session 4
Figure 5 presents the verification of Team “A” pupils’ action
project, in terms of balls played and balls taken away from the
If we look at the histogram of the two games, we will note
that the number of balls played before this verbalization se-
quence is (16), it goes up to (20). As shown in the Figure 5, the
number of balls taken away from the opponents after this se-
quence of verbalization (11) is below of the one recorded be-
fore (17). Thus, the action project regarding increasing the
number of played balls has been implemented whereas one
concerning the balls taken away from the opponents has not
been implemented yet. For that reason, the implementation of
the pupils’ collective action project is incomplete and therefore
not validated.
Figure 5.
Verification of Team “A” pupils’ action project, in terms of balls play-
ed and balls taken away from the opponents.
that the number of balls played before the verbalization se-
quence is (32). After the sequence, it goes up to (39). Therefore,
the pupils have implemented the collective action project.
Session 8 Discussion
Figure 6 presents the verification of the Team “A” pupils’
action project, in terms of played balls. Regarding the extraction of the problems to be solved during
the latest matches, it should be noted that Team “A” verbaliza-
tion has been implemented. Consequently, at the beginning of
The above shown diagram shows a difference between the
values collected before and after the pupils’ discourse. We note
Figure 6.
Verification of the Team “A” pupils’ action project, in terms of played
the debate cycle the players have often encountered tremendous
difficulties in implementing the action projects. The proposals
used by the players show an oppositional relationship, in terms
of targets, reasoning, and authoritative suggestions. In other
words this consists in making a hypothesis about actions during
the verbalization sequences and then trying to validate them
during the second game situation. The sequence of ideas dis-
cussion allows the pupils to have an exchange of ideas and
points of view, to express their opinions and to explain their
reasoning and the constraints facing the action project and
which becomes a tangible reality during the game (Chang,
2009). This evolution can be explained by the awareness about
the encountered problems. The importance of the pupil’s dis-
course emerges during the implementation of the decisions
which have already been taken during the verbalization se-
quence. Thus, the players produce language acts so that, later
on, they could give a certain meaning to the game.
At the end of the cycle, Team “A” becomes more capable to
take into consideration the way the opponent team is playing
and then suggests adequate technical and tactical solutions to
face up the means and capacities of the opponent team. How-
ever, the presence of the opponent players, as a problem,
emerges in all the verbalization sequences. This proves that the
players of this team can indeed take into consideration the op-
ponent’s intentionality. The semio-constructivist approach gi-
ves importance to the process by which the learner can
co-construct his knowledge and actions from his personal ex-
perience. Indeed, through these sequences the players try to
think about their past experience, to negotiate available solu-
tions, and to deconstruct the action rules in the form of action
projects, and to implement them during the second game situa-
The implementation of the action projects during the latest
session could be explained by the fact that the pupils have
woven new relationships with their teammates. These relations
are founded on a certain understanding which translates into an
action project that could be implemented (Lave, & Wenger,
Debating ideas helps players to better manage the informa-
tion. It can therefore be concluded that the pupils do not learn
by mere chance and that they do not learn passively what others
teach them. Learning is the result of experience: it is all-
the-more easier when this experience is sought deliberately and
systematically by the learner himself. Debating ideas consists,
therefore, in a certain interaction between what we personally
think and what others think. The match situation underscores
the difficulty for one individual player’s decision to make
choices and conceive the most adequate response whenever the
problematic situation is not familiar or predictable. This makes
pupils exchange ideas, which leads to a modification of cogni-
tive structures. Language processes promote awareness and the
emergence of effective action plans. Thus, learning becomes
more predictable and later there will be a better adequacy be-
tween responses and the game situation.
The interaction between learning and exchange of ideas is of
a dynamic nature. It could be suggested that each time we make
exchanges; we are more motivated to learn. In other words, the
debate of ideas is a process that seeks to help resolve problems.
The construction of new knowledge is the result of a long
history of interaction between the different responses to prob-
lematic situations triggered by the game and action plans en-
visaged during verbalization. The interaction between pupils
seems to produce the development and modification of indi-
vidual representations. By better managing the organization of
what we know, we can indefinitely enrich our ability to solve a
problem, such as a better understanding and interpreting during
the exchange of the ball, the ball pass distance, directions
change, and position of the opponent player. If tactical skills are
built, partly thanks to these cognitive means, verbal interactions
between peers obviously help their development.
The analysis of the discourse during the debate of ideas could
help pupils better understand whether the proposals are likely to
be successful or be doomed to failure. Thus, pupils learn how to
define these learning objectives and to have reasonable expec-
tations about what they can accomplish. However while learn-
ing, pupils do not need to be told what they must do during the
game. Learning the game act, along with the emergence of
action projects, contributes to the pupil’s cognitive develop-
ment, especially in the construction of a well-structured think-
Linking ideas to action provides researchers with many re-
search perspectives about the teaching/learning process. In the
current study, players are faced with an adversarial relationship
in the form of reduced games where they are called upon to
solve a cascade of problems and to make the determining ur-
gent decisions. Knowledge consists first of all in being capable
to use and explore what we have learned and to mobilize it in
order to overcome the encountered problems (Giordan, 1987).
It is actually the confrontation of points of view, when debating
ideas, which allows the emergence of proposals (rules of action)
which are conducive to know-how that translates into efficient
action projects.
We have observed that the debate of ideas is a means which
allows a comparison between individual interpretation and a
group interpretation in order to take a collective decision. The
execution of this decision was materialized mainly at the end of
the cycle, especially during the last session. Following the
qualitative and quantitative analyses we can say that the first
Team “A” which has benefited from an oral verbal teaching
shows a certain progress in the implementation of action pro-
jects. However, this progress remains rather limited when the
pupils’ language interactions are proportional to the encoun-
tered difficulties in the beginning of the game. If we seek a
higher level, such as the individual and/or collective tactical
construction, triggering uncertainty in the mind of the oppo-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 171
nents, or the rapid management of time and space information,
we have to resort to ideas debating. Indeed, during this learning
cycle we noticed that pupils who used verbalization and a de-
bate of ideas have shown a real progress. This is reflected in the
immediate change of the game strategy, the rapid game reversal,
and in the more developed analysis of the context. So, the play-
ers have gone beyond a first level to a higher and even more
consistent level in terms of game parameters (played balls, balls
taken away from the opponents, number of shots and goals
scored). This can also be justified by the number of projects
implemented by the pupils during the last three sessions. Thus,
this study of discursive productions highlights the importance
of verbalization in the football teaching/learning system in Tu-
Finally, it should be noted that this modest work will have
the merit of proving the importance of discursive skills and the
ability of pupils to co-construct their own knowledge of the
game. This study is also a first attempt to find a fairly recent
axis, although rather complex, namely the constructivist semi-
otic paradigm. Indeed, this work has involved the sharing of
knowledge in the field of physical activities and sport and
theoretical background related to semiotics and linguistics. It is
therefore an innovative approach in didactics in the Tunisian
physical and sports education in particular in collective team
sports. It is a teaching approach that uses verbalization. We
hope that we have paved the way for other studies to examine
the effect of this teaching approach with verbalization on other
types of team sports (handball, basketball... etc.).
These results should be closely linked to the notion of
“communication contract”. Indeed, in every act of communica-
tion partners understand and interact with each other to validate
what is meaningful to them, namely “the collective intentions”
(Searle, 1991), “joint intentionality” (Sensevy, 2008) and “ne-
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