What is the purpose of Physical Education?
What competencies should a student that has journeyed through Physical Education possess?
How do you cater for the variety of individuals that are present in your Physical Education class?
I believe that one of the primary functions of Physical Education is to develop the students attitude and skills to allow them to be active throughout their life. Although this view has not changed, what sits underneath certainly has over the last few years.
If High School English only catered for one type of student, those engage by the highest level of English, what we call Literature what would classes look like? What would become of those that don’t fit that mould or do not desire that level of English knowledge?
Looking back at the Physical Education departments that I was a member of, I believe we only catered for the one type of student, the ‘Literature’ students. Those who were physically competent, had the skill to play the traditional games covered in the curriculum and had the physical fitness to endure the lesson. Upon reflection this quote I came across by Kretchmar rang true:
Inferior skills, poor movement habits, only bits of fitness knowledge or distilled information about movement science, scant introductions to movement subcultures – all of these features of subsidiaries that too often typify the prudential, intellectual, and affective approaches leave children … unable to explore, unable to act creatively … uncommitted, and unmoved … They exercise out of obligation, learn some movement theory, appreciate the mechanisms of health, have a bit of fun, and then in too many cases, return quickly to what they were doing before.
So, what changed? In an attempt to broaden my reading horizons, I read a piece by Atul Gawande called Personal Best. For me the story is about the journey of a professional from Novice through Competency to Proficiency and eventually…well, settlement. Well it shouldn’t end with settlement as the next step is Expertise, but I felt I had settled for somewhere around Proficient and had taken my eye off the journey towards Expertise.
I could run lessons without formal planning. Students came and went with only the rare behavioural management issue. Lessons ran smoothly and I saw plenty of students enjoying class, engaged and applying themselves. However, through reading more, engaged in challenging conversation and reflected upon my teaching I begun to see the ‘wall flowers’. The students that camouflaged into the background. Sure, they participated but always managed to find a space where the ball never came. They came and went without fuss. But what was I to do? They needed one-on-one help. Their skills so below those of the class. Their interest in sport was non-existent. Their disengagement had nothing to do with me – right? They were ‘put off’ long before they got to me. With 6 lessons to introduce, teach and assess Sport x, how can I stop to teach this kid to run or catch?
My thinking was initially challenged by Shane Pill and Mark Upton. Reading and reflecting on their thoughts led me to Al Smith whose reflecting and questioning fuelled me to question and reflect further. Lately I have been trying to wrap my thoughts around tweets by Nate Babcock. The cognitive dissidence created by our conversations forced me to re-evaluate the Physical Education programs I was a part of.
So, whilst I still want to instil a life-long love of movement I have reimagined what Physical Education looks and feels like. Some (not exhaustive) modification include;
|A reimagining of Physical Education|
|Using a Movement Screen as diagnostic tool to provide students individual feedback and corrective exercises|
|Implement a developmental appropriate, sequential Physical Education curriculum.|
|Move to a thematic approach to lesson sequencing.|
|Incorporate a Constraint-led Approach into lesson design – activities are representative of the end game that we are progressing towards|
|Place less emphasis on games where the sole criteria for play is winning or isoloated technique production. Here I have been influenced by De Koven’s The Well-Played Game.|
|Giving students a sense of autonomy – even if is as simple as choosing between a competitive game or a social game.|
|Looking at providing activities that are accessible to students in their local community.|
I’m now beginning to look at Physical Education through a different lens. I see the importance in developing competence, both perceived and actual, at the earliest possible age. I see the need to be proactive in creating a landscape that offers the affordance to move and be active. I see the value in including parents and influencing their understanding. I see the value in participation & non-traditional sports as well as performance & traditional sports. I am thinking of what could be possible if we are bold enough to question what we do. If we reflect on our purpose and how it aligns with what we are creating and delivering.
Reimagining Physical Education – Imagine for a second you could start afresh and design the optimal journey through Physical Education for your students given their varied backgrounds, level of ability and interests, with different aims and aspirations. What does that journey look like? How different is it from what you are currently delivering? Now how do you work to bring those two closer?
This post was written by Jeff Giles, contact him on Twitter to carry on the discussion.