Guiding Principles of Meaningful PE
Movement has the potential to enrich human existence and Physical Education can be a site that contributes to this by creating meaningful experiences of movement. Meaningful experiences are those that hold ‘personal significance’ to the learner. PE Teachers who subscribe to the creation of meaningful experiences, are influenced not just by the achievement of learning objectives but by the value the learner attributes to all forms of movement and to PE itself. If teaching is seen as problem finding, problem defining and problem solving in a complex environment to assist the individual or collective to flourish, then we need guiding principles for our professional judgement and decision making. Ultimately we want children to become physically educated, to see how habitual daily movement can help them to flourish, no matter what version of a ‘good life‘ they may have. Often though, our teaching can get in the way of meaning making we end up providing children with a series of disjointed and meaningless experiences. A ‘Pedagogy of Meaningful PE’ is where the teacher attempts to position movement as something relevant and embedded into the lives of the children they teach. Below are 8 guiding principles for PE Teachers who may want to attend to the creation of meaningful experiences within their lessons as a priority:
1. Meaning Making
We believe people find their own meanings in forms of movement… so we seek to guide the exploration of both positive and negative meanings through a multiple perspectives… and resist the urge to enforce our own personal meanings on them.
2. Meaningful Experiences
We believe in creating meaningful experiences within Physical Education… so we intentionally look to prioritise the interplay of fun, social interactions, challenge, motor competence and personally relevant learning… and resist the urge to see them as convenient by-products.
We believe that fun is an essential part of creating meaningful experiences… so we plan for fun by understanding our students’ personal culture and community values… and resist the urge to prioritise fun at the expense of other meaningful guiding principles.
4. Social Interaction
We believe that positive social interactions are at the heart of meaningful movement experiences in PE… so we seek to carefully consider the way we organise opportunities for social interactions between pupils and with pupils and teachers… and resist the urge to always control the relationships within the learning context.
5. Challenge and Competition
We believe that appropriate challenge leads to enjoyment and continued motivation…. so we provide experiences that place an emphasis on the challenge inherent in the process of completing the task in both the short and the long term… and resist the urge to only see challenge through the binary of winning and losing.
6. Motor Competence
We believe that acquiring and refining motor competence is one of the best ways to develop students’ confidence… so we take a holistic approach to competence… and resist the urge to solve physical problems with only physical solutions.
7. Personally Relevant Learning
We believe that meaningful movement is an important part of a good life… so we explicitly create opportunities for students to develop their own image of a good life and how movement might contribute to that… and resist the urge to assume that what is important for us is important for them.
We believe that teaching for delight will provide a spring board to future sustained participation… so we attend to the experiences we create… and resist the urge to solely teach for prudential, intellectual, or affective means.
These guiding principles for Meaningful Experiences are a work in progress. My plan is to try to and uphold them to the best of my ability within lessons, and through practice and reflection I’m sure they will evolve. So as someone who wants to explore and attend to creating more meaningful experiences in PE here is what I am thinking so far….what do you think? Your thoughts, feedback and critique are most welcome.
Learning About Meaningful Physical Education blog series about Meaningful PE
Meaning in Movement, Sport and Physical Education by Peter Arnold
Movement and Meaning by Eleanor Metheny
Practical Philosophy of Sport and Physical Activity by R. Scott Kretchmar
Beni, S., Fletcher, T., Ní Chróinín, D. (2017). Meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport: A review of the literature. Quest, 69(3), 291-312.
Ní Chróinín, D., Fletcher, T., & O’Sullivan, M. (2018). Pedagogical principles of learning to teach meaningful physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 23(2), 117-133.
Kretchmar, R. S. (2000). Movement subcultures: Sites for meaning. Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 71(5), 19–25.
Kretchmar, R. S. (2000). Moving and being moved: Implications for practice. Quest, 52, 260–272.
Kretchmar, R. S. (2006). Ten more reasons for quality physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 77(9), 6–9.
(2017) Educating Students for a Lifetime of Physical Activity: Enhancing Mindfulness, Motivation, and Meaning. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 88:3, 241-250
Justen O’Connor (2018) Exploring a pedagogy for meaning-making in physical education European Physical Education Review
Justen O’Connor blog post on Exploring meaningful movement in PE