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From Conflict to Socio-Emotional Well-Being. Application of the GIAM Model through Traditional Sporting Games

Motor Action Research Group (GIAM), INDEST, Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC), Universitat de Barcelona (UB), E-08038 Barcelona, Spain
Motor Action Research Group (GIAM), INDEST, Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC), Universitat de Lleida (UdL), E-25192 Lleida, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7263;
Received: 15 June 2021 / Revised: 24 June 2021 / Accepted: 25 June 2021 / Published: 29 June 2021


The education of pleasant interpersonal relationships is one of the great challenges of modern physical education. Learning to live together sustainably is also learning to transform conflicts and the negative emotions elicited by them. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of the GIAM pedagogical model (of the Motor Action Research Group) through cooperation-opposition traditional sporting games with competition in the presence of motor conflicts (conflict transformation; relational well-being) and on emotional regulation (management of negative emotions; emotional well-being). Empirical research was carried out using an associative strategy (explanatory study) involving 222 secondary school students (Mage = 14.86; SD = 0.65). A seven-session pedagogical intervention was carried out based on a championship using the Marro (Prisoner’s Bar) game. The students answered two validated questionnaires of socio-emotional well-being, the Games and Emotions Scale (GES-II) and the Motor Conflict Questionnaire (MCQ), at three phases during the experience (beginning, middle, and end). The findings showed that, through the GIAM model, motor conflicts and the intensity of negative emotions were reduced. It was found that conflicts and negative emotions are part of the same phenomenon and that through an appropriate pedagogical program it is possible to turn them into experiences of socio-emotional well-being.

1. Introduction

Every person is, by nature, a social being who, from the moment of birth, experiences a great diversity of interpersonal relationships. In everyday life, people exchange relationships, meanings, and emotions so that a process of emotional and relational literacy takes place [1]. Such relationships can bring about relational well-being and positive emotions, but they can also be accompanied by interpersonal tensions that often lead to conflict and negative emotional states [2,3,4].
Various UNESCO international reports (e.g., [5,6,7]) reaffirm the importance of schools in promoting peace education. In fact, in Spain, following the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training set up by the European Commission [8], there has been work to respond to the objectives of promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship. To this end, the Strategic Plan for Coexistence in Schools [9] was designed with the aim of promoting quality education which, among its main objectives, highlights the prevention of violence, inclusive education, and equal opportunities, as well as conflict prevention and transformation.
Precisely, the United Nations 2030 agenda [10] establishes three priority goals related to this study, Global Goals or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “Good health and well-being” (SDG3), “Quality education” (SDG4), and “Peace, justice and strong institutions” (SDG16).
Learning to live together, to respect others, and to know how to act in a democratic way are some of the key skills that all teachers should promote among their students [11] for people to grow up in a just, peaceful, and inclusive society [12,13,14]. Education for Sustainable Development in its social dimension [15] must favour democratic coexistence through reflection, dialogue, respect, critical thinking, and peaceful interpersonal relations of all members of the educational community [16].
Physical education (PE), through procedural learning, is an ideal scenario for fostering experiences that favour states of socio-emotional well-being [17,18,19,20,21,22,23]. Intervening in the early stages of adolescents’ maturation process will allow the teacher to guide students in their integral development and in the construction of their own identity [24,25,26]. Beforehand, teachers must be provided with the necessary training and tools to promote the sustainable social development of their pupils towards peaceful coexistence [27,28].
Among the possible pedagogical resources that can be used by the PE teacher, the traditional sports game (TSG) is a first-rate educational tool, as has been shown in other studies, that has an impact on socioemotional well-being [29]. For this reason, the TSG played a central role in this study.
In this educational process, social competence [30] and emotional competence [31] will play a key role in the management of socio-emotional skills for the improvement of interpersonal relationships [32,33]. A positive learning climate must also be promoted, working towards school coexistence through the optimisation of socio-emotional well-being [34,35,36,37,38].
In this respect, a modernised vision of educational methodologies should be considered in order to address social skills work in the context of quality PE with the aim of improving group cohesion and interpersonal relationships among pupils. Various investigations (e.g., [39,40]) provide scientific evidence on the positive effect of pedagogical models that give prominence to the role of the learner in the improvement of socio-emotional skills. Conflict should be seen as a common feature in social settings where people interact. Conflicts can arise when two or more people have unequal relational interests, which students should learn to manage peacefully [41,42].
The presence of tense interpersonal relationships, materialised in conflicts, puts all the educational agents involved in these situations to the test [3,43,44,45]. The challenge is to transform students’ interpersonal relationships by working on social skills and managing negative emotions [2,46,47,48]. Therefore, coexistence has become one of the fundamental axes of education and one of the great challenges for PE teachers in the 21st century [49,50]. Within this framework of action, ‘learning to live together’ should be an essential pillar of any education system [51].

1.1. Physical Education and Socio-Emotional Well-Being

In the context of PE, the GIAM pedagogical model (of the Motor Action Research Group) offers intervention guidelines for teachers to provide education on conflictive interpersonal relationships aimed at improving socio-emotional well-being [52]. Its characteristics, based on the theory of motor action [53], conflictology [42,54], and reflection on action [55,56], provide teachers and students with the necessary resources to guide their interventions towards states of well-being and mutual respect among equals [12,57].
In this learning process, the GIAM model proposes to intervene according to a three-phase procedure: (a) phase 1: pedagogical effects; (b) phase 2: selection of activities; and (c) phase 3: actions during the learning session or sequence. On this occasion, we proposed a new schematic and complementary vision of the GIAM model with a more direct transfer to conflict transformation (Figure 1).

1.1.1. Part 1: Intervention Design

The procedure starts with the identification of the pedagogical effects (intended or expected) to be achieved (learning outcomes) and the choice of activities with an appropriate internal logic to put learners in a suitable relational context.
In this line of work, TSGs are a resource available to teachers to test their students [58]. Previous research has provided empirical evidence on the contribution of TSGs accompanied by appropriate teaching strategies towards improving relational well-being (conflict transformation) [59,60] and emotional well-being [29,61,62,63,64]. Their rules, often original, accompanied by local cultural traits, generate a great diversity of motor experiences. Indeed, each TSG has an organisational pattern or internal logic (IL) that guides the players to relate in a unique way to each other, to the field, to time, and to the material [65].
TSGs can be classified into different classes of relational experiences depending on the type of motor interaction that activates their IL. The theory of motor action identifies four domains of motor action [53,66]: psychomotor TSG (player intervenes without motor interaction with others), cooperation TSG (two or more people helping each other to achieve a common goal), opposition TSG (one player opposes one or more opponents), and cooperation-opposition (where one intervenes with partners and opponents). In each of these domains, competition TSG can be originated (presence of a final score identifying winners and losers) or without competition or a final score [67].
Cooperation-opposition traditional sporting games with competition (TSGCOPC) are the most complex when it comes to testing the interpersonal relationships related to student well-being [68,69].

1.1.2. Part 2: Evaluation of Motor Conflicts

When playing any TSG, participants try to adapt to the IL of that TSG by performing singular motor actions carrying meaning, i.e., motor conducts [53]. Motor conducts are a testimony of the integral and multidimensional response of the person from an organic, cognitive, relational, and emotional point of view [66,70,71].
From a relational and emotional standpoint, any game action (passing a ball, catching an opponent, saving a teammate, etc.) has a motor orientation, but also a relational meaning which, in turn will be associated with an emotional meaning. In PE classes, when several pupils are involved in a motor conflict, they are showing interactive tension in their motor conduct. Generally, it is because one of the two (or both) parties involved in the motor conflict has caused an inappropriate adaptation to the IL of the game, i.e., has engaged in conflictive (misadjusted or perverse) motor conducts [72,73,74].
The motor conflict (MC) is presented as an interactive process between two or more players who are involved in two parts: (a) ‘action’, the part that determines the origin of the MC, which may originate from misadjusted motor conduct (when it departs from the requirements of the IL of the game), a perverse motor conduct (response not allowed by the rules of the game), or a misadjusted verbal covenant conduct among teammates of the same team (not respecting the initial agreement between teammates). Subsequently, (b) ‘reaction’, a response to the conflicting motor conduct manifested by verbal, physical, or mixed aggression. In order to know the level of intensity of a conflict, the conflict index (ICf) resulting from the sum of the two parts of the MC can be used. Thus, the conflicts can be classified as low, medium, or high ICf [75].
When two or more people are involved in a MC, the interpersonal tension causes negative emotions that have generally not been properly managed [46,60,76].
In this context, a fundamental knowledge of PE will enable the education of emotional competence [31,77] to offer an emotional education that allows students to become aware of their own emotions [32,78,79]. The challenge is to learn to adequately transform negative emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, rejection, or fear) into well-being-generating emotions (e.g., joy, love, or happiness) [63,80,81]. This study was based on the classification of the basic emotions by Bisquerra [82] and Lazarus [83] in positive and negative emotions [84,85].
In addition, it is necessary to identify what attitude the two parties have adopted in dealing with the conflict, e.g., competitive (win-lose), avoidant (lose-lose), or submissive (lose-win) attitudes [86,87]. The pedagogical intervention will attempt to teach students to learn to transform the adopted attitudinal style towards the model of collaboration between equals (win-win) characterised by dialogue, respect towards peers and/or opponents together with compliance with the rules of the game [2,88,89].
The approach of the win-win attitude model is consistent with the Personal and Social Responsibility Model [90], characterised by dialogue, effort, respect, and help towards peers and/or opponents together with compliance with the rules of the game. Encouraging pupil autonomy implies that they will become aware of their own actions, sometimes manifested in conflicts, in order to reduce dependence on teachers and increase dialogical and peaceful conduct among the school community [91].

1.1.3. Part 3: Intervention on Motor Conflicts

During the intervention, when interpersonal conflicts are observed, the teacher may act by modifying the rules of the game (to change the type of problems caused by the IL of the game) or by intervening on the actors of the conflict themselves [74]. The aim is to encourage reflective dialogue between the participants in the conflicts at the moment when a MC emerges (reflection-in-action) or at the end of the session (reflection-on-action) [43,55,92].
In order to transform MC, the teacher can use different strategies [52]:
to enter into a momentary dialogue with the participants in the conflict without leaving the field of play. An attempt shall be made to reach a mutual agreement between the parties involved and, therefore, to continue playing without disrupting the proper functioning of the activity (reflection-in-action);
to separate the MC participants from the field of play to initiate a dialogue between them. If the parties involved are able to reach a mutual agreement, they may return to play (reflection-in-action);
to expel the parties involved in the conflict from the game, but not from the session. They are invited to leave the game and to reflect on their conduct and attitude. Subsequently, they are made to participate in the final reflection of the session in order to find a solution to the conflict (reflection-on-action).
The process of positive transformation of socio-emotional well-being involves pupils learning to manage conflictive interpersonal relationships and to control their negative emotions. In addition, they should recognise the attitudinal model used in order to orient it towards a win-win model.
Based on the theoretical reference framework, two objectives were formulated:
To determine the effect of the GIAM model in the presence of motor conflicts between peers and between opponents when using cooperation-opposition traditional games with competition.
To determine the effect of the GIAM model on emotional intensity when using cooperation-opposition traditional games with competition.
It was hypothesised that the application of TSGCOPC following the GIAM pedagogical model will decrease the number of motor conflicts while triggering intense positive emotions among participants.

2. Method

2.1. Design

The study corresponded to an empirical investigation using an associative strategy with the purpose of exploring the relationship between variables through an explanatory study [93]. It sought to reveal the effects of an intervention program based on the GIAM model (represented by the application of the Marro at different times) on the type of motor conflicts and the intensity of the emotional states that accompanied them.

2.2. Participants

A total sample of 222 students (Mage = 14.86; SD = 0.65; age range = 14–16), including 113 girls (50.9%) and 109 boys (49.1%), from the 3rd and 4th year of obligatory secondary school (ESO in Spain) participated in this study. The Department of Education of the Generalitat de Cataluña (Spain) was asked to provide suitable secondary schools (SS) to conduct the study. Thus, the directors of the territorial services of Lleida and Terres de l’Ebre (province of Tarragona, Cataluña, Spain) selected four SS with a medium socio-economic level, ensuring the diversity of their student body.
This project was designed following the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki and accepted by the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Sports Administration of Catalonia (code: 05/2019/CEICEGC).

2.3. Instruments

Two instruments were used for data collection:
The Games and Emotions Scale (GES-II) questionnaire was used [84] as a valid and appropriate tool to analyse the valence and emotional intensity in different families of games in the context of PE. Simplicity, clarity of content and structure, as well as its use in other similar studies [32,94] were key to the choice of such a questionnaire to secondary school students. This instrument is composed of five items that assess basic emotions: one positive emotion (joy) and four negative emotions (anger, sadness, fear, and rejection). Participants reported the emotional intensity of each emotion using a Likert scale from 1 to 7 points (1: I have not felt this emotion and 7: I have felt this emotion very intensely).
To analyse the relational dimension, a specific questionnaire was based on the theoretical framework of reference (motor praxeology and conflictology): Motor Conflict Questionnaire (MCQ). Over the last few decades, researchers from the Motor Action Research Group (GIAM) have presented numerous evidence-based contributions on the optimisation of motor conduct through conflict transformation in PE [48,68,74]. These contributions, always analysed from the teachers’ perspective (agents external to the MC), do not consider the perception of participants (protagonists of the phenomenon).
Therefore, given the need to understand and analyse the perception of the internal agents of the MC, a questionnaire was designed based on the aforementioned theoretical foundations [95]. Specifically, a two-step procedure was followed to develop the items [96]: (a) Identification of the domain and item generation, and (b) Content validity, which in turn consisted of evaluation by experts and evaluation by the target population.
In the first step, we designed an ad hoc tool that gathered information on the dimensions and variables that constituted the MC process (i.e., origin, reaction, attitude, and intervention). An initial pool of items was then designed (Table 1). According to the literature, such items targeted four distinctive features of motor conflicts: presence or absence of the MC, intensity of the MC, attitude towards the MC, and intervention to transform the MC. The methodological guidelines by [97] were followed to develop the items.
In the second step, in order to obtain evidence supporting the content validity of the questionnaire, a judge validation (expert panel) was carried out [98,99]. This process involved eight expert researchers from the field of social sciences specialised in conflict transformation in PE (primary and secondary education). First, all of them individually analysed the content of the questionnaire and the items. To ensure the relevance of the items, each expert used a Likert scale of 1 to 5 points (1: do not agree at all and 5: strongly agree, with the relevance) to provide feedback on the representativeness and relevance of the items. In addition, they were requested to provide alternative wording for those items lacking clarity. After the first analysis, all their contributions were considered, and modifications were made accordingly. Specifically, experts suggested modifications in all the items (stem or response options) but stated that no items had to be deleted. After a one-month period, the experts assessed the new version of the questionnaire [100]. The Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC; e.g., [101]) was used to measure the strength of inter-rater agreement on the representativeness and relevance of the items. According to Koo and Li [102], experts’ agreement was moderate on item representativeness (ICC = 0.52) and good on item relevance (ICC = 0.90). In addition, experts did not suggest further modifications of the items. Therefore, the questionnaire was ready to advance to the next step.
Finally, five focus groups were conducted to obtain evidence of validity related to the response process. Twenty-seven first year ESO students participated in the focus groups (14 boys, 51.9% and 13 girls, 48.1%; range = 11–12 years-old; Mage = 11.70, SD = 0.47). Meetings with the different groups were held consecutively within school hours and contact between participants was controlled to avoid bias. The questionnaire was presented to the students and they were invited to read the items and to reflect on item content and clarity. To complement the process, they were asked a series of questions, such as: Have you understood the instructions to answer the questionnaire; have you understood the content of the items; did the examples help you clarify the item; do you think it is necessary to expand the examples for a better understanding of each answer? In parallel to this process, the researchers answered questions and recorded participants’ contributions. Following the suggestions of the target population, two items were modified, and the final version of the questionnaire was then ready to be administered (Table 1).
The analysis of the parts of the MC (action and reaction) allows the researcher to determine the intensity of the said conflict using the conflict index (ICf) as a key tool towards the diagnosis and transformation of this phenomenon [75]. This tool is composed of three conflicting conducts of origin (misadjusted verbal covenant conduct = 1; misadjusted motor conduct = 2; perverse motor conduct = 3) and three conflicting responses (verbal aggression = 1; physical aggression = 2 and mixed aggression = 3) taking into account their respective scores. The sum of the source intensity and the reaction intensity allows the MC intensity to be determined. Taking into account that scores in the presence of a MC can range from two to six points, the following levels of intensity were determined: ICf Low = 2–3 points; ICf Medium = 4 points and ICf High = 5–6 points.

2.4. Procedure

A pedagogical intervention on competitive TSG was designed following the procedure established by the GIAM model [52] and oriented towards the education of interpersonal relationships for socio-emotional well-being and the positive transformation of motor conflicts. For this purpose, the actions for a learning session or sequence (phase 3 of the GIAM model) presented in this model were taken into account: (a) connectors of prior knowledge; (b) construction of new knowledge; (c) holistic learning synthesis; (d) reflection on the learning process.
This intervention was applied in four SS. The teachers of the SS participating in the study were responsible for directing the intervention with the help of a researcher, who collaborated in the role of observer-participant, from an emic perspective. It was also the teachers of each SS who determined the ideal moment to carry out this experience in their annual PE program.
One month before the start of the intervention, the researchers conducted a training session for the teachers of the SS. The characteristics of the GIAM model were explained to them, as well as the particularities of the pedagogical intervention designed. The main purpose of this training was for teachers: (a) to become familiar with the theoretical reference framework; (b) to understand and become familiar with the characteristics of the GIAM model (phases and actions to be carried out in a learning session or sequence) and, finally; (c) to understand the functioning of the designed pedagogical intervention (session structure, games, and questionnaires used).
The intervention was conducted during seven 60-min sessions over a period of one month in each SS. A total of four TSGCOPC in a stable environment were selected [53], known, studied, and analysed by the researchers of the Motor Action Research Group (GIAM): Marro (Prisoner’s Bar), Stealing stones, Dodgeball, and Pass the Treasure. According to Lavega-Burgués [68], in cooperation-opposition games, students have to learn to live together with their peers and opponents. These games offer an ideal relational scenario to educate on interpersonal relationships.
The development of the selected TSG was framed in a competitive format, following a championship format called “Marro League”. A schedule was drawn up for the different teams’ matches and the TSGs were organised as follows: session 2 (Marro 1), session 3 (Stealing stones), session 4 (Marro 2), session 5 (Dodgeball), session 6 (Pass the Treasure) and session 7 (Marro 3).
Teams were formed through the distribution of students in previously established heterogeneous and stable groups. To ensure that all groups had the opportunity to play against each other, the same game was played three times (three rounds) in the same session.
All games had a duration of seven minutes (in each of its rounds). The misadjusted or perverse (disruptive) motor conducts that originated motor conflicts with peers or adversaries and the intensity of the emotional experience of the session were identified.
In the first session, theoretical-practical training was provided on some important concepts to be known by the students: motor conflict, origin of the conflict (motor and/or verbal conducts), conflict response (aggression), attitude (way of dealing with the conflict), and intervention (transformation-facing) of the MC. Next, the emotions questionnaire (GES-II) and the conflict questionnaire (MCQ) were presented. Then, the TSG of Marro was explained for the first time and put into practice. At the end of the game, the students answered the questionnaires while the teacher and the researcher answered questions.
In the following six sessions, after the end of the game, data collection was carried out using the questionnaires mentioned above. Due to time constraints in the educational context, students who experienced more than one MC in the same session were asked to respond only to the MC that best represented their conflictive interventions in that session.
During the intervention, the characteristics of the Marro League obliged the participants to consider two aspects: (a) objective of the game, scoring according to the outcome of the game, and (b) relationship with peers or opponents, a subjective score on the level of competence of the students aimed at educating aspects such as self-esteem, empathy, respect, effective communication, and others (cognitive orientation ‘learning to know’, relational orientation ‘knowing to live together’, and emotional orientation ‘knowing to be’) [68].
Marro was the TSG selected to analyse the evolution of the students throughout the intervention because its internal logic placed the participants in a scenario of high relational complexity.

Marro (Prisoner’s Bar). Rules of the Game

Marro is a traditional game played since before the Middle Ages in different European countries [103]. It is a duel between two teams in a stable field (rectangular space, e.g., indoor football pitch). Each team, with an equal number of players, takes its ‘home’ position (behind the back line at each end of the field). When a team member shouts ‘marro!’, he/she may enter the field of play and from this moment on, this player is vulnerable to any opponent who says ‘marro’ and enters the field of play afterwards.
If a player manages to catch an opponent, the opposing player will have to go to prison (each team has a prison 1.5 m from their ‘home’). Prisoners have the possibility of being released if they are holding hands (chain) and a fellow prisoner touches one of them. After their release, they have to return to their ‘home’ with caution, as they may be recaptured by a rival, saying ‘marro’ after they have been released from prison. All players have the possibility to return to their ‘home’ to say ‘marro’ and get back on the pitch. Depending on the game mode, the winner is the team that captures all opponents first, or in case of a time limit, the team that has captured the most opponents before the end of the game time [104].

2.5. Data Analysis

Firstly, we conducted a preliminary analysis to describe quantitative and categorial data. Quantitative data (positive and negative emotions) were initially evaluated through descriptive statistics for all the variables in the study at three different time points: Marro 1, Marro 2, and Marro 3. In a second phase, categorical data (presence of the MC, intensity of the MC (ICf), attitude towards the MC, and intervention to transform the MC) were assessed via data distribution at these time points.
To assess the effects of the intervention on students’ emotions, we conducted a General Linear Model Repeated Measures for each dependent quantitative variable, which is in line with previous studies that tested the effects of interventions in physical education classes (e.g., [105]). Such analysis included three different time points (Marro 1, Marro 2, and Marro 3) tested in a single group comprising all participants. Negative emotions were tested as a group and individually (i.e., anger, sadness, fear, and rejection). The statistic of interest was the attainment of a significant intervention effect for each dependent variable. The assumption of sphericity was evaluated using Mauchly’s test. In those cases that Mauchly’s returned a statically significant outcome, we applied the correction of Greenhouse-Geisser. Additionally, effect sizes were obtained via partial eta squared.
Finally, we assessed the effects of the intervention on the categorical variable presence of the MC. Such effects were analysed using a χ2 test. In all the analyses, results were found to be significant at an alpha level of <0.05.
All the analyses were conducted using SPSS Statistics for Windows, version 17.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).

3. Results

3.1. Preliminary Analyses

Table 2 shows the mean and standard deviations of the emotions that students experienced during Marro games. As can be observed, at all-time points, students experienced mostly joy, followed by anger. Positive emotions were the most intense and stable. In contrast, the intensity of negative emotions decreased at the end of the experience. Only sadness showed higher results at the end.
Table 3 presents the data distribution of presence of the MC, intensity of the MC (ICf), attitude towards the MC, and intervention to transform the MC. This table presents data referring to the MC with teammates and with opponents.
During the three moments of the Marro TSG, 324 MCs originated in the presence of opponents (85.5%) and only 55 MCs between peers (14.5%). The number of MCs between opponents decreased progressively throughout the intervention. On the other hand, the MCs between peers increased in the second moment of the experience, decreasing again at the end of the experience to below the initial values (Table 3).

3.1.1. Motor Conflicts with Peers

Table 3 shows the characteristics of MCs between peers:
Peer MCs had a low ICf (n = 43, 78.2%) followed by a lower percentage of MCs with a medium ICf (n = 12, 21.8%).
Collaborative attitudes (n = 23, 41.8%) and evasion (n = 16, 29.1%) were the most frequently reported among peers. At the end of the experience, we observed the evolution of peer attitudes towards collaborative and submissive styles.
In all cases, the MCs between peers were solved through the intervention of the participants of these conflicts themselves.

3.1.2. Motor Conflicts with Opponents

Table 3 shows the characteristics of MCs between opponents:
Interaction between opponents resulted mostly in MCs with a medium ICf (n = 287, 88.6%) and to a lesser extent in MCs of a low ICf (n = 25, 7.7%). In contrast to interactions with peers, the relationship between adversaries resulted in some MCs with a high ICf, but with a very low frequency (n = 12, 3.7%).
The competitive attitude (n = 98, 32.2%) was most prominent among opponents, followed by the collaborative attitude (n = 94, 29%). During the experience, at the second moment (Marro2), the percentage of competitive and submissive attitudes decreased, while the percentages of collaborative and avoidant attitudes increased. Finally, at the last moment (Marro3), it was observed that the attitudes of competition (2.4 points) and submission (2.4 points) decreased their percentage relative to the beginning of the experience, while collaborative attitudes (2.8 points) and avoidance (2 points) increased their percentage.
Most of the MCs were solved by the participants (n = 264, 81.5%). Teachers only had to intervene to transform a MC in 18.5% of cases (n = 60). This proportion was maintained at all three points in the experience, where the number of student interventions to transform conflicts was clearly higher. Teacher interventions were mainly through ‘momentary dialogue and play on’ (n = 43, 71.7%) followed by ‘dialogue with momentary leave of the game’ (n = 17, 28.3%).

3.2. Effects of the Intervention

We analysed the effects of the intervention on students’ emotions and perceptions of conflict. On the one hand, Table 4 shows the results of the repeated-measures ANOVA that tested the intervention effects on students’ emotions. As can be observed, our results revealed a significant effect of the intervention on students’ negative emotions (p = 0.047). Further ANOVAs analysing each negative emotion showed significant effects of the intervention on students’ anger (p = 0.043) and rejection (p = 0.041), but not on sadness nor fear. Joy did not significantly change over time either.
On the other hand, we tested the effects of the intervention on MC variables. In this sense, results showed that the presence of MCs significantly decreased over time, both for MCs with teammates (χ2[df] = 11.143 [2], p = 0.004) and with opponents (χ2[df] = 20.326 [2], p < 0.001). In addition, we tested for possible differences on students’ perceptions of the intensity of MCs. However, such analyses were not statistically significant (p > 0.05) for MCs between teammates nor for MCs with opponents.

4. Discussion

In this research, we set out to study the effect of the GIAM model in 3rd and 4th-year secondary school students using cooperation-opposition traditional sporting games with competition (TSGCOPC) on: (a) the presence of motor conflicts (MCs) between peers and between opponents and (b) emotional intensity. It was hypothesised that the application of TSGCOPC following the GIAM model would decrease the number of MCs while triggering intense positive emotions among participants.
Previous studies (e.g., [52]) have provided empirical evidence on the effect of the GIAM model through the practice of competitive TSGs on relational well-being, on aspects such as task orientation, progress, cooperation, and equality among students. On this occasion, an in-depth analysis of the internal aspects that characterize MCs (relational well-being) and their link with emotional regulation (emotional well-being) has been carried out within the framework of a pedagogical experience (GIAM model) put through TSGCOPC.
The findings confirmed the positive impact of this intervention on socio-emotional well-being. To this end, as different authors state (e.g., [17,18,20,21,23,64]), the context of PE manifests itself as an authentic laboratory of relationships and emotional experiences that make it possible to educate the socio-emotional well-being of students.
The challenge of this study becomes important as 21st-century society begins to reflect on and become aware of the presence of disruptive conducts in the classroom as a topical issue [3,44]. Education for sustainable development in its social dimension is a priority to shape the present and the future of a more just, peaceful, relational, and inclusive society [3,16].
The presence of MCs between peers and between opponents in the three moments of the intervention (beginning, middle, and end) confirmed that, when playing with other people, conflicts and tensions in interpersonal relationships are common [43,89]. It is convenient to offer tools and criteria to educators who want to orient their educational action towards one of the main challenges of 21st century PE: learning to live together democratically and respectfully with others [12,44,49,50]. Any educational program aimed at educating relational and emotional well-being and social sustainability should recognise conflict as an opportunity for individual and group transformation [2,24,27,28,45].
Through this pedagogical experience, students significantly modified their MCs with peers and opponents. MCs between opponents decreased progressively, which confirms that their interventions were increasingly oriented towards peaceful coexistence with opponents in the game [89]. In contrast, peer-to-peer MCs increased at the second moment of the experience and decreased at the end of the program. The GIAM model stimulated the group pact between members of the same team, which took place within the framework of a competition that added a certain tension in interpersonal relations. Indeed, the need to modify team strategies and to improve the contribution of each person to group success may explain the increase in MCs in the first part of the program [59,76]. The pupils began to share a process of dialogue with their peers in order to reach agreement, to organise themselves as a team, and, in this phase, it was normal for verbal conflicts to arise in the first sessions. Subsequently, once adapted to this demand for group organization, the GIAM model also led to the relational well-being of the players with their teammates. This explains the decrease in MCs in the second part of the intervention [43].
On the other hand, it is necessary to address the emotional dimension associated with interpersonal relationships in order to understand the totality of this interactive phenomenon. Overall, the analysis of the three intervention moments showed that all participants experienced mainly intense positive emotions. This finding is consistent with other studies of educational interventions using TSG (e.g., [57,58,62,63,64]). These studies show that socio-motor games are a resource that generates states of well-being among participants.
However, not all interpersonal relationships between partners and between adversaries are always cordial and respectful, generating well-being. During the educational program, students also experienced negative emotions that triggered tensions with other people. According to other studies, the family of games used (cooperation-opposition) favours the presence of negative emotions associated with motor interactions with peers and opponents [63].
As already noted in other studies (e.g., [46]), negative emotions often arise from conflicts with other people. Often, these are motor conducts (misadjusted or perverse) that deviate from the limits of coexistence established by the rules and the appropriate way to adapt to the internal logic of any game [72,73]. Likewise, the presence of distressing emotions will mark the starting point for learning to regulate emotions in the present and in adult life [57].
The results showed a decrease in the intensity of negative emotions, so it seems reasonable to interpret that the GIAM model, through dialogue and reflection, also helped students learn to manage and regulate their negative emotions (such as anger or rejection). Moreover, this could explain why, at the same time, their negative emotions decreased significantly [46,60]. These findings reinforce the results found in other studies (e.g., [32,78,79]) on the need to educate emotional competence through awareness of one’s own emotions. This educational process will favour emotional regulation and the transformation of negative emotions into positive emotions [57,63].
Once again, we reaffirm the need to continue working towards improving the subjective well-being of students in favour of coexistence [29,80].
It is necessary for PE teachers to act with coherence and rigor from the very moment they begin to design a training program that aims to educate social-emotional well-being [22,36,77]. Consequently, work on socio-emotional skills for the improvement of social and emotional competence must be a priority in order to improve the well-being of pupils’ interpersonal relationships [30,33,34,37,38].
A key decision will be the selection of the activities to be introduced in such a program [52]. To this end, sociomotor games are of great interest as they are played in the presence of peers and/or opponents [65]. The nature and intensity of conflicts differ depending on whether cooperation games (where two or more people interact cooperatively to achieve a common goal), opposition games (where a player is pitted against one or more opponents), or cooperation-opposition games (with the presence of peers as well as organized opponents) are used [66,75].
In addition, these kinds of games can also be played with a final score (competition) or without a final result that distinguishes the players into winners and losers. It has been shown that when there is competition, negative emotions and MCs are more intense [29,60,67].
In this experience, we chose to use the GIAM model in a very demanding interpersonal relations scenario, using cooperation-opposition TSG [68,69], in the framework of a championship that added the factor of competitive tension. In contrast to other studies (e.g., [79]), the findings indicated that the use of competition triggers mainly negative emotions, but when an intervention program follows an appropriate procedure (e.g., GIAM model) it is also possible to generate intense positive emotional experiences among students.
It was found that the most intense conflicts (medium conflict index) originated with adversaries and were associated with negative emotions such as anger and rejection. Conflicts with peers, on the other hand, were associated with less intense conflicts and negative emotions (low ICf). These findings are in line with other studies (e.g., [48,60,61,63]).
It was noted that when a game has an internal logic associated with a team duel, the motor interaction between teammates and opponents was a source of interpersonal conflicts. In addition, the demand for respectful behaviour towards others increased when there was competition.
The use of the Marro in this pedagogical experience confirmed that it is a TSG with a very suitable IL to test the interpersonal relationships of the participants. Its original rules, the possibility of encountering binary, tertiary, or higher-degree relationships (e.g., chasing a player while being chased by one or more rivals) associated with a confrontation between two teams moves the players to experience intense motor interactions [104].
The presence of a final score that identifies winners and losers intensifies the tension in the relationship that is established mainly with the opponents [29]. Although it was not significant, the descriptive statistics showed how sadness presented more intense values in the last moment of the experience. Results are in line with other studies linking lack of success with states of frustration [19,79].
The process of educating socio-emotional well-being should consider the learner as the main participant in his or her own learning process [1,2]. Awareness, dialogue and, above all, encouraging reflection in motor action [43,55,92] give students the opportunity to develop pro-social skills such as autonomy, empathy, and respect [12]. In this way, students live experiences in which they make decisions, manage their emotions, and intervene in the conflicts they have been involved in.
Recall that a MC can be transformed through the intervention of the educator or the learners themselves. The study showed that students learned to resolve peer conflicts themselves (it was observed that these were generally low-intensity MCs). On the other hand, in the MCs between adversaries, although most of them were also solved by the students, the teacher had to intervene in those situations of greater relational tension.
The GIAM model proposes two strategies for teachers in the transformation of conflicts [52,74]: (a) transforming the rules of the game in order to change its internal logic and try to reorient the pupils towards another game scenario (e.g., widening the playing field; increasing the number of passes allowed; modifying the way of scoring). In this new context, the aim is to reduce the intensity of the MC resulting from the conflictive motor conducts that give rise to the conflict (misadjusted and/or perverse) together with the type of responses that are triggered (verbal, physical, or mixed aggression); (b) to transform the attitudinal model used by the student facing the conflict, orienting his or her attitudes towards the collaborative win-win model.
Determining the level of intensity of the MC by adapting to the internal logic of the game and knowing the attitude model with which the students deal with conflicts allows the teacher to choose the best intervention strategy.
The educational challenge is to steer students’ interpersonal dialogue towards the win-win model. In this study, it was observed that, in MCs between adversaries, attitudes were mainly directed towards the win-lose competitive model, prioritising individual goals over relationships [86]. Coinciding with the Montes et al. [88] studies, the presence of adversaries, together with the increased intensity of negative emotions, promotes conflict management styles associated with the competitive model among the participants. The competitive team duel model tested the players’ antagonistic relationships with their opponents [66]. Players must learn to recognise opponents as allies in the game and in their interpersonal relationships rather than as enemies to be defeated [60]. Thanks to the rivals, the team is put to the test and can enjoy the well-being of this interactive motor playful adventure.
On the other hand, it was observed that attitudes in conflicts with peers corresponded mostly to the win-win collaborative style. In this case, the internal logic of the games used establishes the need to reach a common goal; hence, it is easier to dialogue towards the win-win model with partners than with opponents [43].
Although not statistically significant, over the course of the experience, the results showed a trend of attitudinal change towards a win-win model accompanied by less teacher intervention and an increase in pupils’ autonomy in peaceful dialogue with others. In this way, encouraging the active participation of students in the processes of reflection and dialogue on their play actions encouraged this trend of change towards greater autonomy. These results are consistent with other studies that have used the Personal and Social Responsiveness Model [91], confirming the importance of these work methodologies in reducing teacher dependence and increasing student autonomy. This work will help future generations to develop greater autonomy and independence in today’s demanding social context.
As possible limitations, we were faced with one of the first practical applications of the GIAM model towards conflict transformation and improvement of socio-emotional well-being. As an emerging pedagogical model, there is little literature on its direct application in education. For this reason, it is difficult to compare the information collected with other studies that have used the same teaching strategy. The presence of significant changes in negative emotions and in the presence or absence of conflict provides valuable initial information on the applicability of the GIAM model. However, no significant changes have been found in the conflict index and conflict attitude styles, and these results have to be addressed as possible trends for change. We recognise that the results could have been stronger if the experience had lasted longer than seven sessions. Additionally, broadening the range of schools participating in the study would provide more information and rigor in the results presented. This limitation will be addressed in future research.
Another limitation that we will endeavour to improve in future research is the number of participants and the country where this study was carried out. We would like to encourage other researchers to replicate this work in other countries, with students from other cultures, in order to confirm the educational contribution of the GIAM model to conflict transformation.
Another aspect to consider in future studies is to broaden the repertoire of game scenarios in which socio-emotional well-being can be educated. To this end, it is proposed to design intervention programs with other families of games (motor action domains) (psychomotor, cooperation, and opposition), and also with the presence or absence of competition (final score). In this way, the teacher will be provided with evidence of interest in the programming of learning units oriented towards the education of socio-emotional well-being.
It would also be of great interest to test the effects of this study according to the gender of the students. Finally, considering that the GIAM model is another resource at teachers’ disposal, future studies could study the effect of the GIAM model as a function of teachers’ gender, as has been considered in other studies [106].

5. Conclusions

This research provided empirical evidence of the utmost interest for addressing one of the great challenges of physical education in the 21st century: Education for relational well-being and emotional well-being. It showed how, through the GIAM pedagogical model, it is possible to transform conflicts into experiences of socio-emotional well-being.
Teachers should educate students’ social and emotional competence at an early age in order to positively influence their integral development and the construction of their individual and group identity.
Relationships and emotions are two dimensions of the same polyhedral phenomenon: motor conflicts.
It also confirmed that, despite being a complex phenomenon, it is possible to change relationships with peers and opponents into experiences of socio-emotional well-being.
Furthermore, it is of interest to all educators to handle key concepts and tools for the positive transformation of MC: (a) intervention design phase: (a1) identification of pedagogical objectives to be achieved; (a2) selection of games with a certain internal logic; (b) MC evaluation phase: (b1) identification of the level of intensity of the MC (ICf) according to the type of MC causing motor conducts and aggressive responses by the other affected party; (b2) identification of the learner’s attitudinal pattern facing of conflict; (c) MC intervention phase: (c1) transformation of the games’ internal logic to modify the interactive scenario of relationships with others; (c2) transformation of pupils’ attitudes towards the win-win model, based on reflection-on-motor action, i.e., there are indications that dialogic and peaceful motor conducts have emerged during the experience.
The theoretical foundations provided by the theory of motor action, together with the GIAM model, allow further progress to be made in promoting relational physical education based on empirical evidence.
In the educational context oriented towards social-sustainability education, PE teachers have a relevant role in the development of students’ interpersonal relationships in order to deal constructively with conflicts and emotional regulation. In this case, we observed that it is possible to propose a journey from conflict to socio-emotional well-being through TSG.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.R.-A., P.L.-B., A.C. and U.S.d.O.; methodology, A.R.-A., P.L.-B., A.C. and U.S.d.O.; validation, A.R.-A., P.L.-B., A.C. and U.S.d.O.; formal analysis, A.R.-A. and P.L.-B.; investigation, A.R.-A., P.L.-B. and U.S.d.O.; data curation, A.R.-A. and P.L.-B.; writing—original draft preparation, A.R.-A., P.L.-B.; writing—review and editing, A.R.-A., P.L.-B., A.C. and U.S.d.O.; visualization, A.R.-A.; supervision, A.R.-A., P.L.-B. and U.S.d.O.; project administration, A.R.-A., P.L.-B., A.C. and U.S.d.O.; All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC), Universitat de Barcelona (UB), through the 2016 PINEF 00016 project.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Sports Administration of Catalonia (code: 05/2019/CEICEGC).

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.


This work was supported by the Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC), of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalonia, Spain).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Adaptation of the GIAM model’s framework directed towards conflict transformation [52].
Figure 1. Adaptation of the GIAM model’s framework directed towards conflict transformation [52].
Sustainability 13 07263 g001
Table 1. Ad hoc instrument on questions concerning the MC process [52].
Table 1. Ad hoc instrument on questions concerning the MC process [52].
Presence or absence of MC1. Presence or absence of MC among peers.Have you been involved in a conflict with your teammates? (Choose a single option).
(a) Yes.
(b) No.
2. Presence or absence of MC between opponents.Have you been involved in any conflicts with opponents? (Choose a single option).
(a) Yes.
(b) No.
Origin of the MC
What caused the conflict? (Choose a single option).
Misadjusted verbal covenant conduct.(a) Not respecting the strategies agreed with your own team during the game.
Misadjusted motor conduct.(b) Carrying out an ineffective (unsuccessful) action: not being able to save captured peers; unintentionally leaving the boundaries of the field; ineffectively passing the ball to a teammate; never leave ‘home’; etc.
Perverse motor conduct.(c) Cheating (not following the rules of the game): voluntarily leave the confines of the field; leaving prison without being ‘saved’ by a teammate; hurting (pushing, shoving, tripping, etc.) a peer; etc.
MC Response
What has been the response or the consequence of the conflict? (Choose a single option).
Verbal aggression.(a) Verbal aggression: shouting, name-calling, talking down.
Physical aggression.(b) Physical aggression: pushing, shoving, tripping, hitting a partner.
Mixed aggression.(c) Mixed aggression: verbal aggression and physical aggression (insulting and hitting a partner).
Attitude in the MC What has been the attitude of the participants in the conflict? (Choose a single option).
Competition (win-lose).(a) One of the two (the partner with whom I have been in conflict or I) has shown very aggressive conduct (wanting to win at all costs), one of the two has therefore tried to proclaim themself the winner of the dispute without taking into account the opinion of the other.
Collaboration (win-win).(b) Both the partner with whom I have been in conflict and I have agreed between us to keep the solutions that were most favourable to us at the time, so that both of us have won.
Submission (lose-win).(c) One of us (the person with whom I had the conflict or I) did not want to talk in order not to get angry with the other one, therefore, the person has accepted defeat and is satisfied with the situation.
Evasion (lose-lose).(d) Neither the partner with whom I had the conflict nor I wanted to argue, therefore, we have both accepted defeat in order to get out of this situation as quickly as possible without any problems.
Intervention aimed at the transformation of the MC Who has intervened to resolve the conflict? If the teacher intervened, what solution did he/she adopt? (Choose a single option).
Student(a) Student body (protagonists of the conflict).
TeacherMomentary dialogue and “play on”(b) Teacher—Solution 1: talk momentarily with the participants of the conflict on the pitch and continue playing the game.
Dialogue with momentary leave of the game(c) Teacher—Solution 2: momentarily remove the participants of the conflict from the game for dialogue. If a mutual agreement is reached to resolve the conflict, the game is resumed.
Expulsion from the game.(d) Teacher—Solution 3: expulsion of the student from the game.
Note. MC = motor conflict. The dimension ‘presence or absence of MC’ divides the instrument into two orientations according to its relational dimension: (a) MC between partners and/or (b) MC between opponents. When there is a MC between peers, the MC may be caused by misadjusted verbal covenant conduct or misadjusted or perverse motor conduct. On the other hand, a MC between opponents can only originate from a misadjusted or perverse motor conduct. In the case of absence of MC, no question is answered.
Table 2. Descriptive statistics for the emotions experienced by the students.
Table 2. Descriptive statistics for the emotions experienced by the students.
VariablesMarro 1Marro 2Marro 3
Positive emotions (joy)4.991.724.931.814.972.00
Negative emotions1.670.681.560.661.540.73
Note. M = means; SD = standard deviation. Negative emotions group students’ experience of anger, sadness, fear, and rejection. Response range = 1–7.
Table 3. Presence or absence of the motor conflict. Variables concerning the MC process.
Table 3. Presence or absence of the motor conflict. Variables concerning the MC process.
Categorial VariablesMarro 1Marro 2Marro 3
Presence of MC Count%Count%Count%
Conflict with teammates
Conflict with opponents
Intensity of MC (ICf)Conflict with teammates
Conflict with opponents
Attitude towards MCConflict with teammates
 Win-Lose (competition)17.1%310.0%19.1%
 Win-Win (collaboration)750.0%1240.0%436.4%
 Lose-Win (submission)214.3%516.7%436.4%
 Lose-Lose (evasion)428.6%1033.3%218.1%
Conflict with opponents
 Win-Lose (competition)4333.6%3126.1%2431.2%
 Win-Win (collaboration)3325.8%3932.8%2228.6%
 Lose-Win (submission)2821.9%1411.8%1519.5%
 Lose-Lose (evasion)2418.8%3529.4%1620.8%
Intervention to transform the MCConflict with teammates
 Participant’s intervention14100%30100%11100%
Conflict with opponents
 Participant’s intervention9775.8%9983.2%6888.3%
 Teacher’s intervention3124.2%2016.8%911.7%
  Momentary dialogue and “play on”2167.7%1680.0%666.7%
  Dialogue with momentary leave of the game1032.3%420.0%333.3%
  Expulsion from the game00.0%00.0%00.0%
Table 4. Effects of the intervention on students’ emotions.
Table 4. Effects of the intervention on students’ emotions.
Fpη2 Partial
Positive emotions (joy)0.0680.9340.001
Negative emotions3.1180.0470.014
Note. F = result of the F test; p = significance, p < 0.05; η2 partial = partial eta-squared effect size. Repeated-measures ANOVAs included three time points: Marro 1, Marro 2, and Marro 3.
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Rillo-Albert, A.; Sáez de Ocáriz, U.; Costes, A.; Lavega-Burgués, P. From Conflict to Socio-Emotional Well-Being. Application of the GIAM Model through Traditional Sporting Games. Sustainability 2021, 13, 7263.

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Rillo-Albert A, Sáez de Ocáriz U, Costes A, Lavega-Burgués P. From Conflict to Socio-Emotional Well-Being. Application of the GIAM Model through Traditional Sporting Games. Sustainability. 2021; 13(13):7263.

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Rillo-Albert, Aaron, Unai Sáez de Ocáriz, Antoni Costes, and Pere Lavega-Burgués. 2021. "From Conflict to Socio-Emotional Well-Being. Application of the GIAM Model through Traditional Sporting Games" Sustainability 13, no. 13: 7263.

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