Teaching Physical Education can be pretty complex at times. We can look to try and reduce that complexity through a number of ways; having a clear purpose, building subject knowledge, increasing our range of teaching styles, having a solid lesson plan and knowing our pupils. However in any one class we are teaching we are still making multiple judgements and decisions about what the best way is to support the learning of the children in front of us. Most of them are trivial as they aren’t going to have a major impact, but some will.
I have written about frameworks that support PE Teacher’s In-the-Moment Decision Making before either through STEPS or CHANGE IT. However both are focused on the details of the lesson, not the bigger picture. It is important for PE Teachers when making these In-the-Moment Judgements and Decisions to be able to scan for these details but also notice whether they link to the big picture. That means being clear about what your Big Picture looks like in the first place. I’ve been trying very hard over the last couple of years to do this with my department and we have got to a place of essential agreement (see The Big Picture). To ensure we achieve our Big Picture we need to make as many experiences of PE are meaningful as possible. How do we do that? Thankfully the work by Dr. Tim Fletcher, Dr. Déirdre Ní Chróinín and Professor Mary O’Sullivan provide PE Teachers with an evidenced based model for Meaningful PE. For an excellent overview of the evidence Doug Gleddie has written Teaching for Meaning in Physical Education. Based on Dr Scott Kretcmar’s criteria that represent the qualities of meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport we have a framework to consider of social interaction, fun, challenge, increased motor competence and relevancy (hopefully leading towards the deep end of delight).
So how does this help us make In-the-Moment Decision Making for the Big Picture? The team from LAMPE suggested we think about the features of meaningful PE experiences as a watch or clock mechanism, where each of the features is represented by the different wheels that work together inside the casing. That doesn’t quite work for me. I prefer to think of them as the controls on a equalizer which we can move up and down. When teaching we need to tune into what is happening and consider the pitch of the lesson. This requires stepping back and observing from a distance allowing us to see the balance of the lesson. Most times we are so focused on the techniques and the details we forget what it looks like as a whole. Many times our lessons are balanced but sometimes they aren’t and they require us to strengthen or dampen one or a number of the features to make it more meaningful.
Since the beginning of this academic year I have been using the Meaningful PE criteria as an equalizer to shape my In-the-Moment Decision Making with regards to our Big Picture. My standard was to ensure at least 3 of the 5 of the criteria where at least 6 out of 10 or over to ensure the experience was meaningful. If, through my observation, I judged they were not I had to identify the criteria to focus on and make changes within the lesson. Some examples where I felt this framework had a meaningful impact:
- Year 9 Gymnastics – Vaulting
- Social Interaction 3/10 – spotting the performer was the only real social interaction
- Fun 5/10
- Challenge 1/10 – pupils had to perform the vault that I said we were working on
- Motor Competence 3/10 – lots of lines and waiting
- Relevancy 1/10
- Changes made – Animal walks back from the vault (↑Motor Competence and Fun), Essential Movement Challenge to complete with partner whilst waiting to vault (↑Motor Competence and Social Interaction), vault criteria develop in class and judge to give score and feedback after each vault (↑Social Interaction)
- Year 7 Rugby – Principles of Play Go Forward
- Social Interaction 10/10 – not sure all of it was positive
- Fun 10/10 – lots of fun being had but at the sake of other criteria
- Challenge 2/10 – too easy for some
- Motor Competence 2/10 – wasn’t really working on the principles of play
- Relevancy 5/10
- Changes made – Losing teams could implement a condition on the winning team from a list of conditions that were linked to principle of play (↑Challenge and Motor Competence and ↓ Fun)
- U18 Lacrosse Training – Transition
- Social Interaction 5/10
- Fun 3/10 – Not many smiles during the game
- Challenge 10/10 – The drill was way too hard for the group and their ability and knowledge level
- Motor Competence 5/10 – not enough repetition for meaningful development
- Relevancy 5/10
- Changes made – Conditioned the defence to allow more opportunities for the attack to succeed (↑Challenge and Fun), Reduce the distance for transition to allow more attempts (↑Motor Competence), Organised Learning Teams to discuss ideas on how to solve the problem rather than lead whole squad talks (↑Social Interaction)
There are still many things to get right with this Meaningful In-the-Moment Decision Making Framework. It is highly subjective and relies on my previous experience and knowledge. Do I need to clarify what the criteria look like in my context to inform my judgements and decisions? Do three criteria at 6 or above really make for a meaningful experience or can I do better than that? How important is relevancy for meaningful experiences in PE and how do I go about improving that in the flow of teaching? However with most things the more I use and the more I reflect on its use the better it will hopefully come. I do see the Equalizer as potentially a powerful framework to ensure we provide meaningful experiences of movement for children. If all significant adults in a child’s life ensure as many movement experiences are as meaningful as possible then we can begin to connect the dots at home, at school and in youth sport and provide the best chance at producing people who use habitual daily movement as a way to flourish.