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. 8: Plan your questions
When planning for Physical Education lessons or for coaching sessions in school sports we usually focus on activities and objectives. When I was a newly qualified teacher I regularly planned for my equipment, resources, group number and made small diagrams for my working areas. What I didn’t do is plan my questions. How many times do you plan your questions? Without real planning questions asked can be banal or even counter-productive. We use questioning in PE constantly to check whether learning outcomes have been successful and understood. Without it, we aren’t able to engage the student in the process of feedback and improvement. As teachers we are usually aware of common student misunderstandings in certain activities, so we can look to plan and construct questions ahead of time that will allow us reveal where students understand or are confused. Therefore the challenge is to plan your questions in advance.
Consider this normal scene in a lesson. The teacher asks a question within the lesson. For example ‘what is the right position to receive the ball in basketball?’ Hands shoot up. The teachers selects one of the children whose hand is put up. They answer the question. The teacher comments on it or corrects it. We think the whole class understands. Then they move onto the next question or task. But what do these questions actually show us? It doesn’t show us what students really know, any misconceptions or what they need to assist them in continuing to learn.
It is easier to observe technical deficiencies with students within PE. We can see the outcome and then help them correct or refine. However in a lot of instances we can’t check success or give feedback until we know what is going on. We do not know the decision making process of the child. We need to understand why they performed something or made a certain decision before we can offer feedback that is productive. This can only be achieved through questioning and encouraging students to verbalise their performance. Blending speech and action is an important part of the learning process within physical education. Questioning during or after performing allows the student to reflect on their immediate prior experience. Well crafted questions give them the opportunity to reflect and potentially create new ideas and concepts that will guide and develop future action.
Although developed for TGfU I think Griffin and Butler’s (2005) questioning protocol extends very well to all physical activity areas, not just games. Very simply it is:
For example within gymnastics after watching a performance of a group sequence you could plan to ask the following questions:
What elements of the performance need to be improved?
Where are the problems that are occurring?
When does the problem occur?
Why does the problem occur?
Who is responsible for the problem occurring?
How can this problem be fixed?
These questions help us to elicit evidence of student thinking and therefore allow us or their peers to give constructive feedback. We can’t do that until we find out what is going wrong in the first place, which is why effective questioning is so important.
Develop a bank of activity specific questions
1. List the key elements needed to be effective in the activity you are teaching.
2. Determine which elements are appropriate/needed for your lesson and students.
3. Place each of the elements into possible subsets, for example:
4. Under each element list questions that would develop or demonstrate understanding
Once these bank of questions have been developed you can use and share them with the department, and will help your planning in the future.
For example in handball this term, which was focused on basic attacking principles, I planned and used the following questions:
What do you think about when you have the handball in your possession?
What do you think about when your teammate has the handball in their hands?
What was/wasn’t working during the game?
Why did your team score goals/not score goals?
Where is the best location to pass so your teammate can catch the handball?
Did you try to make any changes to try and score more goals?
What are the best ways to throw and catch the handball?
How is your team at maintaining possession?
What should your teammates do if you have the handball.
What should you do if your teammate has the handball?
Did your team have a strategy to score?
What do you think your team needs to focus on improving to increase the chance of scoring?
Improving the understanding of 30 or more children in physical education at the same time is a difficult and challenging process. However through planned and effective questioning we can begin to increase the engagement of our students. When planned this type of questioning allows the student to connect to the physical activity and its complexity. Hopefully their responses will give us a greater depth and clarity of their understanding, which we can then in turn use to give more individual and detailed feedback.
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.