This week on Twitter I asked the following question:
The responses have been varied, deep and complex giving me much to think upon, especially with curriculum design and content. However the reason behind it was this: when I explicitly teach motor competences to my students I generally see an improvement in their performance, but in doing so do I rob them of their choice and the opportunity for decision making?
Fundamentally, for me, the main role of the PE teacher is to provide appropriately designed learning experiences in the form of physical activity to develop children’s movement competence. Whilst we can look to develop a child’s knowledge, especially about the beneficial effects of movement on the body and health as a whole, interpersonal skills, positive behaviours and broader educational goals they must be secondary to the development of motor competence. Therefore it is easy to fall into a command and practice style of explicit teaching and learning. This approach is effective and can give us as teachers the sense of an improvement in performance in our student, but does an overtly structured, explicit teaching environment develop a child’s movement competence at the sake of their agency?
By agency I mean the capacity to make indvidual choices and act on them. Decision making in movement, be that in our daily lives, play, physical education or sport is not only a decision for something, but also against something. Agency in PE and School Sport is the iteration of choice and decision for one movement over all the other movement choices that are presented at that moment in time. A child expresses themselves through their movement, no matter what the style, manner or outcome of that movement. However at the same time not only do they express themselves but through that expression they develop themselves and develop a better understanding of their self. Through choice and decision of the movement they shape their potential and who they are. A freedom to make themselves into something different from what they were before.
I have slowly begun to realise that my silent approach to teaching allows the indvidual child to become an agent of their own movement. It is clear that previously when I was over prescriptive in my rugby, football and cricket coaching that I robbed children of choice. When shouting instructions at children from the sidelines during school fixtures and demanding that they follow them, I took away their agency. Instead of allowing to express themselves they become functionaries of myself and my thoughts. Choice and decision was not theirs but mine. Without freedom to choose and decide how to move, they are no longer agents of movement. The child is the performer of the action, and their perspective is from inside the activity in which they are participating. Ultimately they are responsible for the moves they make. They know, see and feel the activity in a way that I as teacher or coach cannot. We can never claim, no matter how experienced we are in that activity, that our experiences are the same as the child’s experiences. How much autonomy do we take away from a child, to ensure motor competency is developed?
However can we leave all the decisions down to the children themselves? Would the explicit teaching of certain skills such as the examples in the table below allow the child greater agency over their movement or would it encroach on it? My gut feeling is probably a little bit of both.
|Twist||Interceptive Timing||Spatial Awareness|
This is the key question I have for myself, my teaching and the children’s learning I’m responsible for. Do I need to explicitly teach some basic motor competencies to allow them to become their own agent of movement? To allow them them to better make decisions and choices about movement within lessons and beyond. If so what are those basic competencies that need to be explicitly taught? Are they the same for all children, the non-negotiables shall we say? Or is everything open for negotiation and do I need to help develop different competencies for different children? The literature states that autonomy is central to developing an individual’s motivation and therefore continuation of an active lifestyle, but then so is perceived motor competence. How do we balance them ensuring that children have the motor competence to take responsibility for purposeful movement and physical activity but also have a sense of control over that development?