Health & Fitness
Over the last 5 weeks, the PE department is really doing a good job, exploring, trialing and sharing successful ways of embedding the Accelerating Abilities cogs within our revised curriculum and lessons. One thing is for sure though, and that is that our culture shift is starting turn. Over this last week I’ve heard some fantastic responses through the use of independent learning one of which I will provide later. But in truth, the work and effort in planning from the PE staff is admirable and I can only praise them for their drive, open-mindedness and effort of working outside their comfort zone. However, as you will read later I think that they have been rewarded and inspired with the way students have responded to the change in philosophy.
One experience which I would like to share is a fitness unit (Year 7). In our 5 week block, the Year 7 boys started the term with fitness under the watchful eye of Mr Mosley. Previously, we would have done a wide range of fitness tests etc and got the students to experience various training methods. The first 2 weeks involved information at a multistructural level to be gathered. This included components of fitness and definitions, characteristics of health related and skill related circuit training and how the heart can be used as an indicator for intensity. The final 3 weeks focused more on applying and evaluating the Health & Fitness cog within a specific sport. In this case it was football. From an earlier pilot study last year, this was trialed on a smaller scale, Swimming. In the SOLO world this would be the beginning of the relational and extended abstract learning journey.
The third week involved getting the students to watch a live performance of 8v8. The remaining students was on the sidelines armed with clip board, pencil and paper making notes. The task was to observe and identify the health related and skill related fitness components throughout the 8v8 game. For this, students needed to use the knowledge gained from the first 2 weeks worth of lessons.
The fourth lesson was based on specificity of football. In small groups, students had to design and plan a drill which was aimed to develop a fitness component identified in the game from the previous week. A very open ended task and resourced with balls, cones, ladders, hurdles and poles, this was the start of them creating and evaluating (high order task) whilst making connections. What impressed me was the energy, collaboration and enjoyment. If football is involved, usually, we would expect questions such as… “Can we have a game?”, which all teachers must have had at some point in their career, “when are we going in the pool?” and “it’s too hot, can we go inside?”. We had not one of these questions asked.
The fifth and final lesson of the fitness module was focused on positional needs. Mr. Mosley wanted them to think even more specifically and apply their leadership, knowledge and analytical minds to key football positions. Facilitating and activating the students, I could sense that the majority of students were outside their comfort zone and starting to stretch themselves. I was blown away with the general level of detail that the Year 7 boys responded with and so I decided to record a discussion with the first group of students that I approached. There were no prompts or suggestions that I was going to conduct a mini interview but as you will hear, the enthusiasm, knowledge and understanding and the correcting of each other is impressive. In fact it was quite funny to watch them jostle between them to give me their answers. This was certainly inspiring and satisfying. You can hear the mini interview below:
Part of the planning stage involved homework where students had to provide plans of the sessions that were to be carried out along with statements of the fitness components that were being developed with short descriptions of specificity within football. Thinking about it now, this would have been a great opportunity to go through the process of critique as superbly described in Ron Bergers book, An Ethic of Excellence, and allowed the students to ask questions of themselves and of others enabling them to re-draft acting upon the use of feedback. Note taken for next time.
The cog provided motivation for the lower ability to achieve not in the execution of football skills but in the attainment, development and knowledge of Health and Fitness.
One student asked “sir, does it matter that I can’t head the ball properly in this drill?” Response, “No, as long as you try that’s great but you need to be concerned more about applying your health and fitness knowledge to improve others.” With that he happily turned around, and eagerly ran off to continue setting up his session. I think this demonstrates the student wanting some security of the fact that the shift in PE philosophy of assessing the life skills (cogs) rather than performance still stands.
I had what John Hattie calls a teaching conversation with Mr Mosley (we have quite a lot of them) about his perspective on the impact the cogs has had thus far. Interestingly he said that certainly the middle and higher ability students just accelerated and took off but the lower ability struggled. When he explained this, it turned out that they had at least achieved their target grade but not necessarily at the same rate. Here’s some possible questions as to why.
1) Would the result be different if we had used a different sport within the fitness unit.
2) Did the differentiated tasks target/favour and stretch the upper tier more?
3) Did the makeup of the groups affect the output. They were aloud to choose their preferred working party.
4) Were they effectively assessed. There was a range of peer/teacher formative assessments but were they reliable and valid?
5) Had we used a more traditional national curriculum level, what would have been the outcome?
All these questions I’m sure we will discover throughout the year. But for now, facilitating a Year 7 practical lesson to a standard where they could probably answer a GCSE question on fitness components with specific terminology is definitely a step in the right direction and a further step in shifting the culture within PE.
The use of the Health & Fitness cog in a fitness module obviously goes hand in hand. But there were ample opportunities to develop different ones. For example, students had the chance to show off their creativity, social and cognitive skills which you can identify in this post. Over the next couple of weeks, I feel a real need to seek different ways to maximise the implementation/recording of the various skills within lessons/units as I feel that students are missing out on opportunities to develop these cogs.