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One becomes Two

Perhaps, given my assertion in the second blog of this series that “direct instruction has a meaningful and important place within #physed”, the title of this blog should be two becomes three. After all, if you’re already using DI and have added a second model to the pedagogical process then another new model would be number three.

That said, the aim of this series of blogs was always (and remains) to help you do something new in your programme. To put something first other than your adherence to your comfortable pedagogy, your students comfortable (or in many cases uncomfortable) approach to learning and the established knowledge hierarchy that dictated what was/is valued in your curriculum.

Let’s assume you’ve started that journey and have taken a few – albeit tentative - steps toward a new idea of what physical education is as far as you, your students and your curriculum are concerned. If you’re anything like me, you’re making mistakes, seeing some big gains and experiencing some equally dramatic falls but, overall, your making headway. It could be two steps forwards and one step back or six forwards and seven back; but you’re fixed on your goal. You may have rushed ahead. I hope you have. You may be making so much ground that you can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Either way, you’re thinking about adding another model to your pedagogy. And that’s where you’ve now paused for breath.

My advice is take even more care when selecting your second model than you did when you picked the first. Fundamentally, it needs to fit with what you want to achieve and complement what you have already done. The first gap might have been easy(ish) to plug but the second is a little harder. Think about it like a game of Twister – the first hand or foot is easy to place but then it gets progressively harder. Whichever way you look at it, it’s considerably more work.

Drawing on my PhD, and with a big nod to my PhD supervisor David Kirk, I argued that developing a models-based approach to teaching was work+work. It wasn’t my normal workload because that had been normalised as DI. My job was to teach (and that meant instruct) the students on how to play major games (English games) and take part in traditional activities/ sports (i.e. swimming, gymnastics, athletics/track and field, and, one-week in their entire school careers, help facilitate an outdoor and adventurous activity residential).

I didn’t need to use a models-based practice approach to be a physical education teacher. I didn’t need to use a models-based practice to be a teacher full stop and ,as such, my development of a models-based practice approach was work (i.e. my expected role) + work (i.e. the effort and determination it took to use new models).

Writing forty years ago, Lawrence Locke argued:

It is not inadequate teaching which bedevils us, it is mindless teaching; the non-teaching teacher. How to keep the teacher alive and struggling with the problem of doing good work, is now and will continue to be the question from which any great leap forward must begin. Locke (1977, p. 13)

To me, but perhaps I am sensationalising this for the purposes of my blog and my reader, undertaking my job was as good as being the non-teaching teacher. I wasn’t struggling with the problem of doing good work. Instead, I was satisfied and content with doing what others defined as my job. Others thought I was good and for many years I was happy with that and felt I was good too.

And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I wasn’t part of any great leap forwards. I didn’t look to take on the challenge of +work. 

+work in this analogy was models-based practice. It was the second and third and fourth model. It was planning, teaching and reflecting on my pedagogy and “struggling with the problem of doing good work”. Most importantly, and significantly, it was on top of my day job. Thus, work+work. I didn’t relinquish my responsibility to teach the students on how to play games and take part in traditional activities. I still had to do that but now I wanted to do it with a different (or different) perspective(s) of pedagogy (i.e. teaching, learning and knowledge) in mind.

To do that I needed to learn about a new model. I had to plan for using a new model and I had to keep up with what was expected of me. I had to assess and nurture and run teams and referee and engage in professional development (which in my case meant researching and writing my PhD [which helped with +work] and learn to drive a minibus [which helped with work but not +work]).

You will need to do similar. Just because you’re looking to use a models-based approach doesn’t mean the day job will necessarily change and evolve with you. If you work alone it might be easier but administrators and parents (like other teachers) have their own idea about what #physed is and does, and they won’t always be willing or able to see things your way.

Doing one thing new is often quite easy to hide. Doing two isn’t so easy and so on and so forth. You need to be ready for that and for the extra work of keeping your first new model going while you bring in a second. Remember the juggler analogy from an earlier blog. Two juggling balls is getting easier as you practice but three throws everything off kilter.

So, choose carefully. Think not only about what you want to do but when and where you might do it. My advice is don’t try and use two new models in back to back lessons. From experiences that’s a big ask. You need to find some spaces to think and plan in. The second model is a little more about convenience than the first. You need to give yourself the time to learn to learn in a new way and each new class time to learn to learn in a new way.

Work+Work is a great reflection of Locke’s challenge around how to keep the teacher alive and struggling with the problem of doing good work. It isn’t the same as a non-teaching teacher but nor is it easy. My advice – go into it with your eyes wide open but use it to make the leap forwards you want to make.



Locke, L.F. (1977). Research on teaching physical education: New hope for a dismal science. Quest, 28, 2-16.

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