Essentially I believe Physical Education to be about the learning of movement and all things associated with movement. For that learning to occur I believe we need to help students find the value in movement rather than just the fun in it. This post is an attempt to clarify my thinking behind why I favour value over fun within my PE classroom.
Fun in movement
Without doubt fun is a key element of intrinsic motivation and the children I teach use it as a compliment when they think a lesson I’ve taught is a good one. Therefore I think many PE Teachers hypothesise that if they make their lessons ‘fun’ then students will be motivated to learn. However fun is such a vague and individual concept. When I was younger one of the things I found fun was pushing myself to my physical limits and was drawn to middle distance training. Pushing myself hard, whilst my body was screaming in pain and full of lactic acid, was a lot of fun. Many of my friends did not share this idea of fun, and this is where the fun hypotheses fails for me.
What is fun for one person may not be fun for another. The work of Amanda Visek and colleagues have tried to unravel and deconstruct fun through their work on the fun integration theory. Although looking at youth soccer and not PE, it demonstrates that there are a lot of different factors that make up fun. If fun were to be the driving force of our lessons in PE we should find out exactly what fun means to our students. Do we as teachers assume what is fun for our students, without actually engaging them in a conversation what exactly makes it fun? Can we make lessons fun for all pupils all of the time, especially if we put fun at the centre of our planning, content, curriculum and delivery? Ted Temertzoglou as a guest on the PE podcast The Fundamental Movement in the episode What’s “Fun” got to do with it? makes a good point that I wholeheartedly agree with. If as PE Teachers we make the classroom environment inclusive, safe and allow children to take risks regardless of success and failure and not judged or labeled by the teacher or peers then there is a good chance that fun will be a by product of that. I have many questions about fun’s central role to learning within PE that I’m yet to find answers to in my experience or reading, so I have tried to find something that is able to.
Value in movement
I don’t use it in the sense of an economist, where we place a measurement on the benefit of something, but how it is used in ethics and the degree of importance it has. Especially when linked to its potential in making a significant contribution to a human flourishing in its widest interpretation. It is the child who perceives, interprets and judges what is of value in physical education. The value of movement therefore must always be from the perspective of the child and not what interpretation may be put upon them by others including the teacher. Rather than trying to make things fun for them, I want to guide them to explore what value they can get from movement and how that can lead to a richer and fuller life. That may include the inherent fun and enjoyment of the act of movement itself, but not just exclusive to that. Be it cognitive, aesthetic, social, moral and health development or anything else that might be important to them. That the learning of movement doesn’t just mean they can reach their potential, but helps shape their potential in all areas and aspects of their life. I do not necessarily use the term ‘value’ with the children I teach though. What I do try to do is help them clarify and understand those values of movement for themselves and get them to share it with their peers.
Fun and enjoyment are important in my classroom, but I don’t think they are always necessary for learning to occur. I personally feel fun is fleeting and values can be more enduring and long-lasting. I also believe that explicitly helping children to individually explore and understand how movement can be valuable to their lives within lessons, be that through experiencing joy or something else, means that they will be able to take responsibility in finding additional or alternative values in movement beyond school. Therefore allowing them to be able to take responsibility for purposeful movement and physical activity throughout the rest of their lives.