This blog has emerged out of a manufactured chance retweet on twitter. My preferred means of access my twitter account is through tweetdeck as it allows me to view concurrent columns very easy and navigation between them is simple. One of my column is a search on the term "phys ed" in the hope of getting a feel for what people are saying about my subject. Late last night I spied this tweet:

rickweinberg said:

Working on school work. Should kids ever fail Phys. Ed because they refuse 2 change their cloths? Please help me w/ your thoughts

My first reaction was to retweet the message to my followers (knowing that I had a number of physical education teachers following who might offer an interesting and considered opinion) and to offer a reply myself.

@rickweinberg Phys Ed should be about helping kids be lifelong participants in physical activity and that take attitude not kit. #inspire

However as soon as I posted these words I wondered if they were the politically correct reply of an academic sitting in an ivory tower rather than the true feelings of a PE teacher. Did I answer to save face? Is that the way to address issues like this? Was I becoming a fence-sitter? It took a counter question for me to ponder the truth of my reply and ultimately to write that blog (so thanks Jonesy).

jonesytheteachr said:

@DrAshCasey I'll ask you a Q back. Should maths students fail coz they don't bring books? Prob not, but do they meet course outcomes either?

This seemed to me to be a more honest reply. Would a kid fail maths if he or she refused to bring their books? Or indeed if they brought their books but refused to get them out of their bag or out of their locker? Is there a requirement in school for kids to match the expectation of the teachers and the school as 'learners'? There is certainly an expectation in society that school is a place of honesty, awareness and responsibility where people look after each other and themselves. Indeed much of the order of school life is built on discipline and this is certainly a trait in schools and individuals that is admired. It is a two way process and the school and its teacher as have a responsibility to cajole and encourage students to be involved.

ConservativeFBC said:

@DrAshCasey No...but they should be disciplined...we give 2 freebies, then a detention

This sounded more like me as a PE teacher. Did I honestly think that lifelong learning could be achieved without some cooperation between teacher and student? This was more of the truth. I vehemently believe that learning is about cooperation and mutual respect. I acknowledge that my teaching was a one-way process (i.e. one that came from me and went smoothly to the students) but that is why I engaged in a seven-year self-study to ensure that learning became a mutually constructed process that occurred between my students and me. I also acknowledge that while I loved physical education – regardless of the pedagogical approach used – many of my students hated it because of the instructor-led and drill-focus nature of the subject.

Then two new colleagues joined the discussion and started to debate the situation; allowing me to see physical education from the position of one who didn't always aspire to make the subject his and her career.

MitchSquires said:

@DrAshCasey @rickweinberg I almost did in HS. Lugging that bag around all day made me far more resentful than doing sport ever should.

DrAshCasey said:

@MitchSquires @rickweinberg you won't be alone but we need to make phys ed somewhere all kids enjoy being.

MitchSquires said:

@DrAshCasey @rickweinberg I agree! Also to be avoided: a handful I kids involved and the other 25 lining up. Noone enjoys that.

shhartley said:   

@MitchSquires @DrAshCasey @rickweinberg I hated public humiliation of PE. Can't catch. Can't run. If not changing wd save me, I'd choose it

MitchSquires said:

@shhartley @DrAshCasey @rickweinberg How much could you get away with that?

shhartley said:

@MitchSquires @DrAshCasey @rickweinberg About 1 week in 4.

rickweinberg said:

@MitchSquires @DrAshCasey I got it now. r there any educators that think "ya know, if a kid is 2 lazy 2 dress than mayb they should fail

MitchSquires said:

@rickweinberg @DrAshCasey I guess it somewhat depends on your system's version of what fail means

rickweinberg said:

RT @MitchSquires: @DrAshCasey I guess it depends on your system's version of what fail means.~how abt get an F and going 2 summer school

DrAshCasey said:

@shhartley shame to hear that but this is not uncommon and we need to find a way of teaching Phys Ed that doesn't humiliate

MitchSquires said:

@DrAshCasey @shhartley I find at Primary level when all kids are involved no one has time to watch, so no one feels embarrassed - eventually

This made me think about the amount of money we spend on technology in education and more recently in physical education and wondered if this is still appropriate when the situations mentioned by shhartley and MitchSquires continue to happen in classrooms around the world. Could the money be spent in better ways to alleviate the commonality of these issues? Should we buy iPads and heart-rate monitors when we need to redesign physical education kits to allow students to feel comfortable in lessons and then need to provide this sort of kit for those who struggle to bring it to school (for whatever reasons)?

Yes we should!


Because these are tools to help us broaden the appeal of physical education for all – especially (perhaps) the least able. These are ways to inspire children to be involved and to understand themselves as physical learners. However, these are not the solutions but are important tools in the journey towards a more inclusive approach to learning in physical education. Others supported this notion (although I apologise if I am putting words into their mouths).

MatthewKoogler said:

@DrAshCasey kids shld nvr fail, but look at it in context of being prepared for lifetime of activity r u ready to hit the gym or go play?

MatthewKoogler said:

@DrAshCasey look at standard of lifetime activity or being ready to participate. its legitimate life skill to be sweaty and in school/work

rickweinberg said

@DrAshCasey thank you so much for responding. Gym should b designed 2 avoid humiliation & advocate participation. Remove obstacles

Comments From The Previous Blog...

On 10 August 2010 02:33  Adam said...
This is a great post, well done to all who contributed. This post really moved from a student not bringing equipment issue to a why do these students not want to participate in Phys Ed issue.

In the state system I am in, QLD, Australia, there is no real requirement for changing in Phys Ed, they can wear there sports uniform all day (which really is quite unhygienic and gets very smelly mid summer, but forget this issue, as we have no showers or change rooms at school anyway). But we do still have issues with nonparticipants, who either refuse or have an 'injury/illness'.

As students change and society changes, PE has to change as well. I have been teaching for only 10 years, and the main aim of physical activity in that time is skill development in a variety of physical activities (I teach high school).

I am not sure if students enjoy that or are receptive to that anymore. They do not see it as fun, those who enjoy that type of activity usually play competitive sport on the weekends anyway.

But all I am doing is really asking questions. And the main question is, is what do we need to be doing with physical activity in the 2010 PE classroom. Skills?? Fitness?? Minor games???

On 10 August 2010 03:48 Ben Jones said...
IMHO this is very similar to the issues I raised in my blog post last week: the issue is, is "brings PE uniform to class every lesson" in the syllabus? If it’s not then why are we assessing it?

But let's take a step back what is the overarching philosophy/intent of any health, personal development or physical education syllabus? From my readings in is all about healthy individuals and health communities (ideas of healthy vary between syllabi). How does assessing some based on bring the correct uniform relate to healthy individuals & communities. If we then extract that concept of a lifelong health how does punishing a student achieve a lifelong healthy individual?

Or are we just applying a rule because those before us applied it, or maybe because without it we can differentiate?

Ben :-)

On 10 August 2010 04:32 Dr Ash Casey said...
Hi Adam,

Thanks for the reply. Would be great to connect with you about this but I can't work out who you are. If you are on twitter drop me a DM and we can talk.

More generally though you are right. Phys ed has been about developing skills in major team games. The question of what we do now is more difficult and, I think, much less prescriptive. We need to develop a love an enjoyment for phys ed and to do this we need to acknowledge (in Ben's words from our skype chat this morning) acknowledge that there are sports lovers, physical activity and health lovers and those who enjoy both or (currently) neither. We have to offer kids the chance to learn about themselves and their passions and we need to help them develop those either in schools or clubs. Once we have generations of kids who enjoy being active in different forms then we start to address what is coherently wrong with Phys ed at present.



On 10 August 2010 04:36 Dr Ash Casey said...
Hi Ben,

As I said this morning we need to ensure that we don't fall into the trap of assuming that the way we were taught is THE WAY of teaching. As you say we need to extract the essence of what makes phys ed phys ed and try to put this across in the learning that we try and engender in our teaching. We need to support the school in creating an environment conducive to learning but we also need to challenge our schools and universities to think differently about what that environment looks and feels like.



On 10 August 2010 05:32 jonesytheteacher said...
I've got some explaining to do!
When I fired back my question in response to your question, 140 characters didn't do justice to the point I had in mind, that being, that as teachers we often find ourselves caught between two imperatives.
Firstly, the overt and rigid system of assessment and reporting that our employers expect us to deliver to our stakeholders (I hate using economic terms to describe education, learning & humans. Unfortunately, the commodification of what we do (as educators) often ends up with any discussion being couched in these terms, so I will as well to make my point!).
The second, and much more meaningful imperative is that of delivering the "pure" message of our learning area (lifelong physical activity, healthy relationships, learning through games - whatever flavour you want to call it) in a way that was honest, valid and equitable.
In my experience there is a tension that exists between these imperatives - and the second often suffers at the hands of the first. Too often what we “do” is immeasurable, and to try and do so analytically reduces it to triviality. This then inevitably leads to discussion on the legitimacy that is attributed to a subject via assessment and achievement of overt outcomes (ie. If you test and get marks, then somehow that subject is more important than one that doesn’t assess and mark in the traditional way).
My tweet about the maths student and their books was a coalescence of these thoughts into a sub 140 character response.
My job as a Faculty leader, ever since I became a Head Teacher, has been to convince my "experienced' staff, who largely believed that the old way was the best way, that the second imperative I mentioned needed to become our focus. We can still meet the assessment and reporting expectations of our employer and the parents, but at the same time honour a real life commitment to the students that our work will have the greatest long term effect on.
We are by no means a model school where enlightened staff wave goodbye to students that have reached their maximum potential. But we are exploring ways that make what we do relevant (for all parties)and engaging , and thus ultimately instilling in our students the ideal of lifelong health and physical activity.

On 10 August 2010 06:08 dblain08 said...
This is something that always needs to be addressed. The basics must be in-place before we can try to integrate the extra add-ons (tech) that many of us, especially me, sometimes get carried away with.

Build from the basics-starting with getting pupils to enjoy PhyEd, making them feel that physical activity is worthwhile and something they should commit to, through sport of as part of a healthy lifestyle.

My belief is that the technology can help with this and as such becomes part of the basics.

On 10 August 2010 08:35 Dr Ash Casey said...
Hi Jonesy,

I think that innovation is always batting against tradition - except that tradition gets first pick in the draft and already has the governing body and umpires on its side. We have personal belief about what sort of teaching will engender the best learning and social expectation about what teaching in physical education is. The difficultly for anyone trying something new is that it is difficult, time consuming and there is no evidence that it will achieve the stakeholder's benchmarks any more successfully that the current model - so why bother! We need to change practice but we also need to change expectation about what it means to do physical education.

A tough journey but even these begin with single steps...



On 10 August 2010 08:39 Dr Ash Casey said...
Hi Dylan,

Making technology part of the basics will be great. I agree we need to make it an expectation rather than a innovation. As long as quality, lifelong learning is at the heart of our efforts then we should be on to a winner.

As some once said we should not be paid by the hour but for the quality we add to the hour.