Over 8 weeks, every weekend, I will offer you a challenge for the following week. These challenges will come from other teachers, researchers, academics and coaches and take on different formats. You can try one, try the ones you like, or try them all. The hope is that it will stimulate thought about your practice, your pupils understanding and their learning and potentially change them for the better.
PE Challenge No. 7: Correct as well as Critique
This weeks challenge comes from Doug Lemov’s book Practice Perfect. Within the book Doug offers 42 rules for getting better at getting better. Through video analysis and observation of teachers Doug witness ‘positive outliers’, those teachers who were successful in difficult situations. The reason he believed they were successful was because they focused and obsessive about seemingly mundane processes that actually had a big impact. Rule No. 8 in the book is Correct instead of Critique, however I think as PE teachers we need to do both.
As a teacher of PE we are always giving constant verbal feedback to our students. The clarity and quality of our feedback is essential in helping students progress and for us to be successful teachers. How often do we say ‘Good job Bob’ when we have seen Bob perform the skill well or make a good decision. This is vacuous feedback and I’m guilty of it on occasions when tired or not focused, however it has little to no benefit for the student. We need to move our feedback away from ego centric to task centric. When we as teachers give verbal feedback it needs to be precise and focus on trying to improve the key elements of the task at hand.
Doug’s Rule 8 goes a little bit further. He suggests that ‘critique’, the act of giving precise technical feedback, is not enough to help improve performance. In the book he gives the example of the time lag between critique and correction. Watching a basketball lay-up drill the following advice was given to a student “Keep your body symmetrical: try not to tilt your head”. The student would run to the back of the line. Sometimes students didn’t get to repeat the practice because of time, or that the feedback they had received had gone from their memory before they repeated. So verbal feedback is not enough, combining with immediate correction and therefore practice, multiple times, will help with improvement.
The challenge this week then is within your lessons to try and reduce the time between critique and correction.
Doug’s idea is simple. If you are performing a line drill, then you repeat immediately after you receive feedback, essentially having two attempts before you wait your turn. Even better is in his mind if you see the error corrected say “Yes. Good. Now do it 5 more times!”
I’m trying very hard to move away from traditional line drills and try to create small sided game environments with conditions that emphasise the skill, technique or decision making I want my students to improve. I would like more students active more of the time. I have now got into a habit of setting up a practice zone within lessons:
Whilst observing the conditioned games I can provide feedback. I can then immediately withdraw an individual, pair or group for the opportunity to correct privately. The intensive practice needs to get them to redo the action differently or better. Having planned for a number of different fixed or variable practices will help you choose the right approach for the students you are working with.
A colleague of mine has brought this approach into gymnastics and is finding it reasonably successful.
The hall is split into 3 areas. Individuals, pairs or groups are working on refining their created sequences. In Area 3 they perform, usually to a teacher, another group or to a recording iPad. They receive or discuss feedback and they move on to Area 1. In this area they work solely on correcting. So if a headstand is not being performed with control and pointed toes they work only on rectifying this through practice. When they move on to Area 2 they are practicing their whole routine, along with hopefully the improved headstand. Finally they come back to Area 3 to perform and review if improvements have been made and what further areas they can refine.
What Doug hopes is if you can reduce the time lag between critique and correction then it will help improve performance. He also believes that reducing the time lag will, with practice, encourage self or peer correction. That the students will start taking responsibility for correcting their own or each others performance through observation.
If you decide to accept the challenge, I would love you to share your thoughts. Did it help your teaching or your pupils learning in anyway? What were the outcomes of the challenge, both positive and negative?
You can either post your response to this blog.
Or on Twitter direct to me at @imsporticus
Or on Twitter with the hashtag #pechallenge and I shall collate them.
Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you.