I’m Head of PE in an International School, UAE. Through the power of social media, I have been inspired, motivated and re-adjusted my teaching philosophy.
I read a great post by Phil Wylie (twitter – @inspire_EDphil) on Simon Scarborough’s blog, Achieving Excellence Through PE. He questioned some of the usefulness of learning to perform various sport specific skills in helping develop students into resourceful, resilient citizens for the workplace and everyday life. This got me wondering. What is the value and purpose of PE? I too fell into the trap of emphasising and developing performance of sport specific skills; the spin pass in rugby and the cover drive in cricket for example. At times I could also sense students giving the lesson little value into learning specific skills. If only I had highlighted the significance of independent learning, developing the growth mindset, enhanced public critique, design a project based learning inquiry, I probably would have engaged a lot more students or students would feel that they have achieved something which is purposeful in their lives and not just for the school rugby team!
Now it’s clear in my head. To help develop skills for the 21st Century, we’re talking of confidence in social settings, teamwork, cognitive skills, problem solving, resilience, awareness of health and creativity. Yes, this may seem extremely obvious and it is but it’s all too easy to fall back on to the safety mechanism of our comfort zone and deliver a lesson full of skills and drills which only a minority would either enjoy, value or fully engage in and I have been guilty of this in the past. There are of course other values of PE in the curriculum like tackling the obesity issue, physical literacy etc but for me I’m essentially focused on the skills and learning which sport promotes.
So our focus in PE is now largely the process of learning the skills and strategies which will be assessed not by the traditional performance based level descriptors but by the CreateDevelopment COGS which are linked to the National Curriculum.
Last year we did a pilot on the use of COGS and look forward to reflecting the use of them in lessons with the help of the PE staff. We have designed a web for tracking and monitoring and this has been inserted into the students planner. The schemes of work have been re-written and will be a working document as staff teach the curriculum updating and remodelling where necessary. Simon Scarborough (twitter – leading_in_pe) has been inspirational in his use of COGS within core PE and is well worth a read. He documents very clearly how COGS are used in his Department and the impact these have on students achievement. Particularly low level ability. I look forward to posting more about our new assessment strategy throughout the year.
The Olympic Games has been an amazing success with a lot of discussion, debate and frustration regarding PE and School Sport. My belief is that these two terms, PE and School Sport can be used in the wrong context. PE to me should be about developing student skills through the medium of sport as I’ve mentioned above which still can include intense physical activity and competitive sport but the emphasis is the process of learning. This allows PE to develop transferable skills to other areas of school and lessons as well as the education of life skills. School Sport on the other hand is not about PE but the opportunities within school to participate in physical activity. For example, as a PE department, we have managed to increase our lunch time from 30 minutes to 50 minutes. Now we have opportunities to provide School Sport at different levels, participation, development, intra/inter school. On average, extracurricular activities and school teams account for approximately 10% of students. The aim will be now to engage as many students as possible. Watch this space!. This is where the legacy of the Olympics needs to be exposed and taken advantage of. Allowing students to get involved through various roles in a wide variety of activities.
Personally, I love gadgets. I especially love gadgets in school to further maximise engagement and learning. Over the last couple of months, I have been amazed at the vast amount of ideas that people have used using the iPad, iPod, smart phones, apple tv etc. Every time I see a new idea, app or I suddenly get a brain wave, my head lifts up like a little mear cat and I’m off exploring all the potential ways for learning. Love it.
I’m extremely grateful for those that have influenced my shift in philosophy because it does provide an exciting and rewarding challenge. It will certainly raise the standards of the students, the department and the school as well as myself. The use of technology and social media has become invaluable for modern pedagogy and CPD. All I can say is exciting times lay ahead.