#Physed and #Physeders get a raw deal. We’re poorly represented in the media, often blamed for our nation’s (yours and mine) poor health and lack of sporting success, and frequently devalued in terms of both curricula and extracurricular provision. While it’s easy to look at such external factors and cast the blame elsewhere (they made us do and then they don’t support us), we do need to look in mirror and consider what is reflected back at us. There is, as they say, often no smoke without fire.
#Physed and #Physeders get a raw deal for all the smoke. But, often we’re not responsible for the original fire. That blame could well lie elsewhere. With our teachers. With our parents’ teachers. With our grandparents’ teachers. And so on and so forth. But the buck has to stop somewhere. With someone. You in this case. I suggest, however, that if you’re reading this blog that’s a decision you may have reached by yourself.
The problem is “what’s the problem?”
This is where the idea for this blog stumbles and possibly falls. I’ve made the decision to blog about models-based practice and even titled this piece “step away from the multi activity curriculum”. Those two decisions in and of themselves suggest a) that models-based practice is a good thing, and b) the multi activity curriculum isn’t. While I believe, through my experiences as a teacher and teacher educator, that these two assumptions are the case - that doesn’t have to be your starting point for pedagogical and curricular change. In many ways, what I’m offering with this blog is a solution to problem I perceive not a problem you’ve necessarily identified yourself. That said, I started with the desire to use what Metzler (2001) called an instructional model or model-based practice (in my case Sport Education, Teaching Games for Understanding and Cooperative Learning). I wanted to use different models in my teaching and that was the main driver (at least initially) for change. That said, I also identified a problem - an underlying dissatisfaction with my ‘one-dimensional’ pedagogy - but I can’t deny that I was also driven by the shiny new pedagogical model in front of me.
With that in mind, I’m going to hit the pause button and ask you to reflect on ‘the problem’ and/or what’s brought you to this blog. I invite you to problematize the #physed that’s occurring in your school. You might do this by imagining what your students tell their parents about your lesson? You might do this by considering what students are learning or not learning in your lessons. What do you teach them? And I don’t just mean team games or yoga but what they learn about hierarchies, standing in queues, ability, gender, competition, cooperation, winning and losing etc. What don’t you teach them? What do they learn from other students?
Now think about what you’d like them to learn. How do you teach this? How do they learn this? Do you change the way you teach and the way they learn to achieve this? Why? Why not? Now choose your own questions. Really unpack you approach to teaching #physed.
In the recent Routledge Handbook of Physical Education Pedagogies I opened my chapter on Models-Based Practice with the following words:
“There presently exists a really delightful and vigorous array of approaches to schooling which can be used to transform the world of childhood if only we will employ them” (Joyce & Weil, 1972, p. xiii).
Writing more than forty years ago Joyce and Weil (1972) argued that at a time of fearsome educational trouble there were “approaches to creating environments for learning” (p. xiii) that could serve different educational purposes and different ways of thinking. The title for their preface “we teach by creating environments for children” seems as apt a way of positioning this chapter as it does for their book. We live at a time when education has become a policy centre for national governments and an increasingly fertile ground for global comparisons, where teachers are being de-professionalized and curriculum are being written to exclude rather than include their insights and passions. Like Joyce and Weil we face some fearsome troubles and we need to create environments that can serve the diverse needs of the learners in our care.
I also believe that there are diverse approaches to teaching that serve different educational purposes and different ways of thinking. The desire to create programmes that serve such educational purposes and ways of thinking lies, I believe, at the heart of models-based practice. These are theoretical and pedagogical ideas that have been through lengthy ‘field trials’, have been developed in alpha, beta, gamma, delta etc. versions and have been tweaked and modified by, in some cases, thousands of teachers. And they set out to achieve different things.
Sport Education, for example, was conceptualised to help young people become competent, literate and enthusiastic sports people. Teaching games for understanding grew up out of the creators’ frustrations that the relationship between the game and the player was being lost in the drive for technical proficiency. Cooperative learning emerged as a pedagogy to help learners better achieve both academic and social learning outcomes.
That’s not to say that excellent pedagogical practices do not occur outside of models-based practice. I’d not be alone when I suggest that motivated teachers have always and will continue to design and teach their own models and will always strive to motive and inspire their children.
Others, like me, started this journey by identify a problem and finding a potential solution. I didn’t fully know what I was getting into but I’m glad I took the step. I’m also glad I got some help from model already in our field because I don’t think I was capable of designing and teaching my own models.
Stepping away from we know – especially something as treasured as our pedagogy – isn’t easy. Especially when it’s probably a close approximation of the approach used by our teachers to teach us. The very approach that maybe inspired us to become teachers. That said – and I acknowledge my bias here – the multi-activity curriculum is not the long-term future of #physed. Not in the same way – again acknowledging my bias – as an approach that caters for the learning needs of young people across multiple domains (for example the four attributed to PE: physical, cognitive, social and affective). Teaching many similar activities in the same or very similar ways has been likened to a scatter gun firing mud pellets (i.e. fire enough activities at them and something will stick) and it’s where we’re coming unstuck.
Instead, by acknowledging the need to teach a broader range of learning outcomes and choosing different pedagogical approaches to help you achieve that you better serve the needs of your students. By simultaneously acknowledging that you’re in this for the long haul, and Rome wasn’t built in a day, you give yourself the time to do this slowly.
This blog is ‘set up’ to challenge your teaching. I have chosen to talk you though the development of a models-based practice curriculum but I hope it simply challenges you to think a little differently At the core of this blog is the need to talk, as a community and as individuals, about what we already do well and then identify small steps to develop. I started with one model, with one class and dipped a toe in the water. It took me four years to begin to teach a models-base curriculum and I believe that I’d still be developing it had I stay in schools and not moved into university teaching. So, sit back, take a breath and decide where you want to start.