We traditionally have an ablest approach to teaching. We definitely have an ablest approach to teaching physical education. Those who can are encouraged to do and those who don't or won't well there just not trying despite our best efforts. But it is these 'best' efforts that encourage those who can and discourage those who can't.

Let me explain my reasoning. 'The best' and 'the best of the best' are celebrated in physical education and we teach in such a way that it allows them to massage their egos. Take track and field athletics. We teach the athlete and laud the fastest, furthest and highest while those placed other than first are left trailing in the ego of the winner. The same in cross-country i.e. everyone starts together and the first placed runner gets to watch everyone else run in behind him or her. Are we encouraging the ablest to do well and discouraging the less able? Is it time we forgot about the best and helped everyone else? Is it time to forget about the egos of those who already love physical education and who would take part in anything regardless of the activity and concentrate on those whose egos we have constantly hammered throughout school physical education? Is it time to adopt an anti-ablest pedagogy?

A bit radical maybe but would we be better encouraging the least and less able to enjoy physical education and hope that we can inspire them to lead a healthy and active life-style? Should we focus on developing their mastery of an activity that they might enjoy and follow through as a lifelong activity? Is the established player less in need of our support? Should we be massaging a different ego? These are strange idea to a teacher who came into the subject with a coaches role in mind but I just wonder now if we have our priorities wrong. Are the ablest simply better disposed to lifelong physical activity? Research suggests that physical education has concentrated on sports technique for so long that a 'one-size fits-all' approach to teaching has become the norm. This hasn't discourage the ablest but has alienated the majority of less-able students. Should we throw the pedagogy out and prioritise those who 'just CAN'T do it?'

Let me know your thoughts?

Comments From The Previous Blog...

On 2 June 2010 15:54 jonesytheteacher said...
Coming from a strong sport culture in Australia, what you say makes perfect sense. When sport and its players are idolised the success mind set permeates all stratas, including school PE. I would argue that it's good to differentiate the notions of sport and physical activity into separate streams (competitive and lifelong recreational pursuits), provide practical examples and opportunities and thus encourage our students to see that there is an alternative to winners and also rans. I also see the modern PE professional needing to be a critical voice in the ear of our students, breaking down the clarion call of sporting goods manufacturers and the media that second place is for losers.

On 3 June 2010 01:29 Dr Ash Casey said...
There is a stigma attached to the less and least able by physical educationalist. We either don't want to teach the 'b' or 'non-squad' group or thrive teaching them the very basics. We like triers but how often do we try the things we don't like? I dislike pineapple with a passion and avoid it at all costs...isn't physical education the same for sme students? We need to develop a hunger in our students for knowledge not performance. Students need to learn what they can do and lean about themselves afterall how many (even our best of the best) will make their lifetimes living out of sport performance? It is time to abandon what Stephen Brookfield called the nike school of teaching (student: "I don't understand sir!" Teacher: Oh...just do it') and adopt an apporach that help ablest and leadt ablest alike to succeed and understand what physical education is about i.e. an education about the physical rather than an education that is simply physical.

On 3 June 2010 06:00 dblain08 said...
Prioritising those who can't-interesting!

Prioritising all- a challenge I believe all PE teachers should take on. How do we ensure challenging lessons for all? Push our gifted and talented not the detriment of others. Coming from a school which teaches mixed ability and mixed gender classes - differentiation is a major challenge.

I believe we must create learning environments with a mastery climate for all, in the hope that as the research suggests students will become intrinsically motivated to take part in physical activity. This needs to be across a wide range of activities so pupils feel confident in lots of activities. Coupling this with providing pupils with information on the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle will-I hope develop these lifelong participants in physical activity.

Should we do this by ignoring our best? Here is where I think extra curricular (EC) activities play an important role. It's vital to have a wide ranging EC programme which caters for all and provides opportunities for the best to challenge themselves. Current schemes are aiming to do this (5 x 60).

On 3 June 2010 06:13 Dr Ash Casey said...
EC is a key ingredient here but is it EC sport to challenge the ablest or extra opportunty to develop a desire for out of hours particiaption?

I come from a sporting elite background and I thrived in a sports background but lots of my peers hated it. I think all should be catered for but curricular time shouldn't be about egos but about mastery. I'm not sure that an anit-ablest pedagogy is quite what I mean but I could have been given a diet of tig/tag and I would still have loved Physical Education...but there are those who really don't like sport and engage in leisure activities like walking and cycling for the rest of their lives. Don't we need to aspire for more of these people?

The five hour offer...great but who will benefit...those who already do?


On 3 June 2010 06:54 Dylan said...
EC for both sport & participation. We as PE teachers need to develop a standard at grassroots but we must ensure we provide opportunities for all to participate.

I do however agree that this 5 x 60 scheme is not having the effect it could-mainly because there is not enough take up from pupils-the question is why? Pupils are constantly being offered activities such as karate, fencing, mountain biking, canoeing, surfing... Why do pupils not want to take up such opportunities?

I agree that curricular time should be about mastery not egos. How about massaging these egos by using them in coaching capacities within lessons. I write with athletics in mind-pupils aiming to refine their techniques to improve personal bests and others helping them in this process - a winner for all?

On 3 June 2010 07:04 Dr Ash Casey said...
I think of myself as a student-centred teacher. I use meta-curriculum models like Cooperative Learning, Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding to allow students to work in a role other than that of performer. I believe in social as well as academic learning and the only time a tape measure made it into one of my lessons was to help students understand what worked in athletics.

I think that there need to be real links between schools and clubs. I am sure that these exist but they need to be the norm rather than the aspiration.

As to why they don't take part...perhaps because they are run by the physical education department? That is food for thought (for me at least)...