Reinventing the Game – RtG

Top 40 PE Blog – https://blog.feedspot.com/physical_education_blogs/

As a teacher of Physical Education, being able to teach a game effectively is an obvious part of the job. The big question that dominates my professional thought processes is “What is effective teaching of a game?”. Do we want a student to replicate and mimic successful sports actions/movements and consider that effective? (I will use the word ‘Game’ and ‘Sport’ interchangeably at times). Or does good teaching allows the student to appreciate and adhere to that game even after the PE lesson is over? Contemporary education practices suggest that a deeper level of learning that goes further than just reproduction of actions is necessary. Personal understanding of the role of physical education in our lives tells me that skills learnt in PE classes need to embrace a part of the human psyche that allows a life-long contribution to that individual. It cannot be a once-off series of lessons in predetermined action movements that we require to meet our system’s short term objective.

Reinventing The Game (RtG) is about creating that environment of ‘reinvention’ for the students as they explore the Playability of games while they embark on the understanding journey to learning games.

In RtG, I explore ideas of Technical Concepts and Tactical Concepts. I look at games as a complex system and the solutions to solving problems in games (ie. learning in games) requiring complex system adaptation. Excellent work has been done in this areas by many and I find that pulling it all together is the work of us teachers. I once attended an international conference and sat in 3 concurrent sessions on learning. One was from a neuroscience perspective, the other from a cognitive learning specialist and the last from a pedagogy point of view. All 3 could have achieved more comprehensive pragmatic outcomes if they had come together to leverage on each other’s specialties when looking at the common point of how students learn. One of the big problem I see clearly (at least to me) is the lack of connection in research to the everyday on-goings of a classroom. Without doubt, the work done at the academia level does concerns the teacher and is vital information to lesson development in PE but I feel the need to also have good bottom-up initiatives from teachers on the ground to put together leanings from controlled environment research with their real day-to-day experience in a seemingly uncontrollable environment.

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Reconciling externally regulated teaching approaches with more efficient self-regulated learning processes in Physical Education (PE)

So lately, we successfully manage to squeeze in face-to-face lessons for Physical Education (PE) as normal lessons resume with strict safe management measures in place. This includes group activities limited to five per group, an odd number that is unfortunate for small-sided games that loves even numbers. Odd numbers does however provides opportunities for under and over loading potential of game representation in activities. As I get into the groove of such conditions (tempted to say constraints but am observing a self-imposed writing rule to use the word constraint to mean a feature that facilitates rather than being an obstacle), I got more than a few exclamations from my students that goes along the line of “What are we doing today?  I am sick of PT (Physical Training). Can we do something fun.”. It is very difficult to hear these comments. Like or not, I probably have done a great injustice by i) making PE/PT/PA (Physical Activities) unwelcoming and ii) linking much effort put into creating that personal responsibility in fitness and movement knowledge to something that is not so positive.

Some context. In the age group and system that I teach in, physical training is an important aspect even in the best of time. This is due mainly to getting the boys in shape for military conscription (conscription duration is cut by up to two months for those who attain a certain standard) and for the girls to be aware of their responsibility to have a healthy routine for present and future. We do our best to intertwine all these with a typical Physical Education (PE) syllabus that includes elements of recreational movement and knowledge with its impact on personal development. We also have a very strong leadership development flavour where we identify students for formal leadership training and eventual position in the area of outside classroom physical related activity provision within the school.

It is times like this when all the time spent looking at theories, models, approaches, etc. seems to go out of the window. At times like these, you have a bunch of students looking forward to PE, the play opportunity. This brings to mind the importance of always realising that recreational movement is more than just motor learning, skill acquisition, technique enhancing, etc. It is part of life and requires much deliberation from teachers than expected biomechanical realisation. I remember recent situations when I seek help from student experts for skills that I struggle with and even envy when I see young kids performing. One was from an Ultimate player who was also the captain of my school team and the other two were Calisthenics fanatics.

From the former, I sought out more information on Ultimate throws and the latter, tips on doing the muscle-up move (where you raise yourself from a pull-up to above the bar). It was a revelation to observe how they go about trying to teach me. While I can notice them using cue words direct from available expert information, they also spent quite a bit of time trying to describe what the movement feels like. For the Ultimate throw, my student attempt to reiterate the main skill identification cues of how to hold the disc for the forearm and backhand throws with a few suggested variation, putting emphasis on how the disc should feel like on a good hold, i.e. very firm. He went on to describe the pull (a throw to start the game) as almost willing the disc to move out before coming in by ensuring release angle commensurate with the preferred disc initial flight path. It may be just my own bias in interpretation but I was listening to very good external cues being mentioned.

For the muscle up move on the pull-up bar, I have asked a couple of students how they manage it. First impression seems that it is just about brut strength. They described a feeling that is possible with the appropriate over-hand grip on the bar that allows the quick transition to over the bar at the right moment with appropriate technique. The rest needs to be shown to me according to them. Obviously, they have difficulty in verbalising what exactly needs to be done in the usual linear way. I appreciated and learned a lot in what relates well to effective learning from these little interactions. Note: I still can’t do either well at all!

Is this their attempt to share their successful proprioceptive (feelings reflecting how their limbs and body felt like in a successful attempt) interpretations that is imbued self-regulation that matter more to them than the usual teaching cues that they may have encountered? All of them acquired their skills through fellow students and available instructions, not adult coaches. Can we learn more about teaching by listening to these young competent movers?

The OPTIMAL, Optimizing Performance through Intrinsic Motivation and Attention for Learning model (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016) is an interesting area of work that brings together motivation, external focus and motor learning. Part of the theory suggest that motivation is not just a by-product of successful movement but can actually enhance the acquisition of it. Autonomy is also discussed here as a biological necessity that needs to exist for motivation in successful motor learning. Autonomy can include some learner control over practise conditions and the use of instructional language that supports autonomy perception. Reasons for this includes better processing of relevant information, better error detection and better use of self-regulation strategies. A very interesting sharing in this paper is that even incidental choices have value, e.g. choice of colour of ball and choice of unrelated task after main task, in increasing success factors of skills, e.g. accuracy, velocity, etc.

All these goes towards “…strengthening the coupling of performers’ goals to their movement actions, presumably operating in complementary ways…” What I like about this paper is the table of predictions (see Table 1 below taken from the paper) that is easy to understand for a teacher like me that also sort of summaries the whole paper.

OPTIMAL Predictors

Table 1 (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016)

POST FrameworkSchematic 1 (Otte, Davids, Millar, & Klatt, 2020)

Communication with POSTSchematic 2 (Otte, Davids, Millar, & Klatt, 2020)

Another work that shares self-regulatory strategies are the related  PoST (Periodisation of Skill Training) framework and the Skill Training  Communication Model (Otte, Davids, Millar, & Klatt, 2020). A easy to understand summary is given in a paper by Otte et al. PoST refers to the need to recognize the stages of an athlete’s development, i.e. Coordination Training stage, Skill Adaptability Training stage or Performance Training stage. The Skill Training Communication Model is an extension of leveraging on PoST by being more focused on the type of augmented feedback (e.g. feedback given by teachers/coaches) given to an athlete that complements ecological dynamics understanding of constraints. See Schematics 2 & 3. This model sought of guide the coach/teacher who uses a Constraint Led Approach (CLA) to use instructions as a form of external (to the action environment) constraints. I like that very well know work, together with their eminent academics, make attempt to bring it all together for the man on the ground. My only worry is that the necessary scientific need to categorize in both discussion and practice examples may confuse actual experience on the ground. The above papers used for discussion attempts to combine the unavoidable need to recognize the complex environment in which a learner exist in that cuts across typical specific areas of sciences, making it more palatable for use on the ground. This is not easy, as academic work sometimes exist in research silos for the sake of robust research methods that tries to control for extraneous factors. It is great to see established researchers go beyond sole expertise areas to make better sense for practitioner use. I always look out for such crossover attempts.

If a strategy is pegged to very distinct categories, it might create confusion for those who may not have full understanding of more insights. The other issue is the assumed chronological existence of categories that may not be so neat in reality. Maybe it is good to start looking more into the linear structures and development strategies for coaches/teachers vis-à-vis non-linear learner development in learners. Even though the same word development is used both for teachers and learners, their implication can be vastly different.

It is about reconciling externally regulated teaching approaches with more efficient self-regulated learning processes. This comes to mind for me when looking at insights via teaching models. How do they relate to the idea of skills emerging as a consequence of needs, i.e. a dynamic system perspective and effectively self-regulated for the learner. This needs to be put  side by side to the fact that as part of teacher development we need to understand processes systematically, i.e. in a logical step-by-step fashion that is externally regulated to the learner.

A good example of potential confusion can perhaps be seen in the concept of Fundamental Movement Skills, FMS. Is it a linear and distinct implementation strategy for the teacher or does it contribute to the understanding of non-linear development of the learner? We might be tempted to think this differentiation does not matter but I believe that it influences very evidently on how we use such concepts in the classroom. This goes the same for the numerous teaching models that we encounter. My personal simple classification is that pure implementation strategies are usually linear structures and development strategies for coaches/teachers and I always endeavor to seek those strategies that allow me the hybrid structure to understand more about potential non-linear learner development in learners. It mirrors almost exactly how we want our students to learn the why, together with the what and how.

References

Otte, F., Davids, K., Millar, S.-K., & Klatt, S. (2020). When and How to Provide Feedback and Instructions to Athletes? – How Sport Psychology and Pedagogy Insights Can Imporve Coaching Interventions to Enhance Self-Regulation in Training. Frontiers in Psychology; Hypothesis And Theory. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01444

 Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2016). Optimizing performance through intrinsic motivation and attention for learning: The OPTIMAL theory of motor learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review(23), 1382-1414. doi:10.3758/s13423-015-0999-9

Expected Norm and Individualised Norm in Physical Education (PE)

Expected n Individualised Norm ver 3

Are there big issues coming out of teaching for PE? Some on the ground might say that everything is OK and that only those that want will make mountains out of molehills. Coming slowly out of this worldwide pandemic, PE teaching has been dissected quite a bit on its role and relevance. Admittedly, and obviously, there is no issue for those who are not looking. The isolated learning environment for students has revealed much about what we have to offer when all initially thought relevant factors are taken away, including those that are assumed non-negotiable to PE before, e.g. social interaction, teacher-student interaction, etc. In this climate, my thoughts stray more into what PE teaching should be like when we eventually resume normality. (Many might say I should think more about what to do right now but admittedly, I think I am one of those who is just hiding from current challenges and hoping for normalcy as soon as possible.)

In the calm of the void of face-to-face teaching, my thoughts go back again to what exactly do we want students to achieve right now, immediate future and long term. These statements have evolved for me;

  • When teaching an open skill (where context feedback loop informs maintenance of movement, e.g. a continuous movement like attacking and defending in invasion games), do we teach from the norm and expect moving away from it (Individualised Norm) or do we teach to the norm (Expected Norm), ensuring all achieve a similar standard. (expected norm vs individualised norm – see Fig 1)
  • When teaching a close skill (where feedback is still required but perhaps assumed from within the body mainly, e.g. discrete skills like taking a penalty, a sprint take-off, etc.), do we teach from the norm or to the norm.

I will add here that I do not think there exist a close skill as defined by our popular view that such skills do not need knowledge of outcome/result to be executed or maintained. Our practise might assume that for convenience but closer study will show that there is always an interaction within a learner and the context. All actions need that close loop for feedback (note the word close here is used in different perspective to open and close skill, i.e. an open skill needs a close feedback loop and a close skill might be assumed to not need a feedback loop). We need to consider this loop more carefully to realised the role that information in the context plays. There is a strong chance this feedback flow of information can lead in activity design. Understanding it opens up interesting possibilities.

The reflections on the above might be able to get us thinking a bit more about what underpins teaching processes within learners that will help us understand better effective learning and teaching.

  • Why do we need to teach from the norm or to the norm (expected norm vs individualised norm)?
  • What happens in the learning process when we teach from the norm or to the norm?
  • How do our understanding of cognitive processes involve in learning relates to teaching from the norm or to the norm?
  • Lastly, does being learner centred or skill centred affect the way we see the above?

The word cognition has taken on many meanings. I am not referring here to the cognitive development of learners that we expect as a result of learning (that is also hugely popular as an outcome of education) but rather the cognition involve in the process of learning. For teaching and learning strategies, like it or not, the way we teach makes many implicit assumptions about how we think learners learn and therefore what cognition looks like. This is a mainstay for much of my thoughts as I try to understand the strong lobby that is looking into the look and role of cognition that might differ from the traditional understanding that our brains does the central control for everything.

One common practise is that we create a learning environment in its full representation, or partial, for learners to lock in and replicate when needed. The teaching for understanding perspective goes a bit deeper in expecting deliberate cognitive involvement by expecting learners to think about what they are doing, why they doing it and as a consequence, how to go about it in the future when face with something similar. The ecological camp goes deep into a theoretical view of how cognition works by suggesting that learning takes place as a result of reacting to a series of needs directly which preps the learner for a repertoire of future responses due to this calibration experience, different from traditional cognition understanding of information processing.

Calibration here means an internal information processing mechanism sorts of learn of its abilities and limitations through experience, e.g. how far can I reach, how fast can I move to a point, how to throw an implement to a base accuracy level, etc. When faced with a task that requires the convergence of a few similar expectations, the body reacts accordingly, i.e. the interplay of affordances (reaction possibilities) provided by a task in an action environment. Rereading the preceding sentence, as best as I could have written it, makes me realise why not more practitioners want to look deeper into this. It seems very abstract and seems to say the usual in a confusing way when all teachers might want to do is get a learner to kick a ball in one direction!

The key here is the calibration process and how it is locked in for future adaptation. Example, if I go through an expected norm biomechanical process using a substitute sock ball or a plastic bag full of air and expect it to go towards learning when an actual implement is use, I may not be aligned to how we acquire skills. It is a fun activity and if indeed that is all that is available, I will do it with the expectations for students to respond in anyway as long as task outcome is achieved, e.g. keeping modified ball in the air. This is allowing the learner to calibrate response to needs of the task and environment which will adapt better when eventual implement is used.

I seem to be harping on my same old mantra of considering what happens within the learner when the teacher intervenes and the student respond, other than “the student will listen and do what I want”. This present rehashing seems apt for me to reflect on with the rise of PE discussion in present climate.

Story time – an analogy

“There exist a robot that was designed to respond to walk and stop via pressing a remote control button. A programmer build the programme for the robot’s movement. A user uses the control and manipulate the robot’s behaviour quite effectively via the control. One day, the user wanted the robot to run. He tried his best to jab at the buttons as quickly as possible to reflect the fast rhythm of a running gait. It did not work. The programmer got to know of this need and was able to easily get the robot to run because he knew exactly how to programme the remote-robot interaction such that the correct motors in the robot respond at the appropriate time to initiate a run. However, he needed some help from the user to understand the correct movement rhythm! The programmer knew the interactions between creating a signal and causing a movement. The user was an expert in using the robot to meet the needs of his use.”

We as teachers, are we the user or do we want to be the programmer or a bit of both? (Caveat: At times, we do think we are working with machines and choreograph elaborate reproduction plans. The programmer understand and writes codes for a complex information processing mechanism and do not just input a picture!).

I am trying to put all my thoughts, represented quite a bit by my written reflections, together to re-look and re-fine my own personal mission and vision of teaching PE related skills and knowledge. Fig 1 is a busy visual that attempts to consolidate some of my own learning experience in the area.

One of my biggest observation is our fraternity’s preference to use problem identification (or movement parts identification) cues directly as teaching cues. I remember one of my teacher training lecturers (one of the founders of TGfU) emphasising to us that beginners usually can cope with only one or two cues at a time effectively. A very simple advice that I believe you will notice immediately with your beginner learners if you make a deliberate observation. Many times I find myself giving very elaborate internal cues (e.g. angles, body positions, gaze direction, etc.) to satisfy my own desire of wanting to go through the skill and not realising it does not help in learning for my listeners. They initiate my instructions by picking up the easiest to follow cues. This teacher habit comes together with the breaking up of complex skills to simpler component parts (try looking into the ideas of Decomposition and Degeneracy). This comes with cues that are the representation of the smaller parts. We hope that these cues that when put together represents a picture of the total movement.

This may not be the best framework to expect learning because at any one time, the action needed (we want it to be the action expected) depends on the immediate next phase and not the end outcome. Example, an exercise in an isolated Javelin throw run up will not be the same in natural body calibrating and wanting to adapt best as compared to holding a Javelin and going into the next phase of beginning the release. We can force a sub response to be perfect in its broken up form but that might go against the best learning process within the learner.

We tend to carve out close skills that are discrete and decomposed from continuous movements, e.g. passing drills that mimics part of a bigger movement. This may be a problem. Main reason is while the mechanism within us that facilitates learning across types of skills is similar, the inputs into this mechanism do differ, i.e. continuous, open movement information coming into our learning mechanism will probably differ quite a bit form those of close, discrete movements. Therefore, teaching might not be effective if we do not consider such differences in inputs.

This results in a non-linear development that needs careful consideration from all parts of a progression. Cutting in into parts creates its own outcomes that may not contribute neatly as expected. This is where representational activity outcome needs to be carefully designed to ensure relevancy to eventual outcome.

This is where the whole ecological dynamics perspective, and even the learning for understanding practises, can offer some insights. Is it fair to say that ignoring this might result in the convenient strategy of breaking up complex movements into exact observable parts for practise that inadvertently result in a mismatch of information needed for the eventual expected response between the whole and part activities? I will add that there are three broad ways to dissect a complex skill, 1) by its observable parts, 2) by it’s assume stimulus-response needs at different points and 2) combination of the two. One good reminder from a recent discussion on the matter with some colleagues is that while working in parts, we need to ensure there is always a valid transition in not only mechanical progression but also stimulus (information) relevance to eventual context.

Even the type of cues matters. Beginners respond best to external cues that facilitates an ecological (requiring context-learner interaction consideration) respond to a need, e.g. “get under the ball” activates a movement that automatically scales (movement that takes into consideration learners spatial-temporal interaction abilities, given a task) learners’ abilities to the task as opposed to “bend your legs and move forward”. Cues that we use as experts to identify good and bad movements may not be the best teaching cues if translated directly without taking in to consideration learner’s skill level, physiological processes of learning, etc. Higher ability levels come with better self-understanding that may allow the use of more internal cues for learners. Of course, a good balance of internal and external cues requires the teacher’s expert deliberation on the type of skill/movement in consideration.

What will happen if we do not look deeper here? I believe learning will still take place but with a bigger reliance of learner’s own adaptive mechanism for that learning, i.e. learning takes place despite us and very linted. What will happen if we do consider deeper and are more aware of learning processes within learners, other than replication expectations? I believe our lesson designs will gradually shift towards a direction where our expectations of what we offer and its actual learning impact becomes more aligned.

Degrees of Freedom & Degrees of Consideration in Physical Education (PE)

A perhaps conflated and simplistic reflection amidst much forced rest. Still trying to figure out.

DoF n DoC

Recently I went through a Newell paper and listen to a whole bunch of episodes of a podcast, the Perception the Action Podcast by Rob Gray. This is indeed a self-declared commendable effort for me as I went through them with much more attention than I will usually do such sources of valuable information. The reason for my usual brief scanning is the difficulty I find in understanding such research foundations. I can clearly see glimpses of why I should persevere, as there is an incredible amount of effort put in the academic level that will clearly benefit even PE teachers providing the first opportunity for knowledge and skill acquisition in the area of health, fitness, games, etc.

This brings to mind something I sometimes encounter from the fraternity, i.e. if it is too complicated to share; chances are we do not need it and it is too complicated for learners. We sometimes associate our complex job to learners finding it complex when it is two separate things. This attitude comes probably because we see learning as a two-step process where the first input step just mimics the second output step. We provide knowledge and skill directly. In pedagogical sciences, this may be similar in implementation to direct teaching, reproduction style, etc. While they are many other variations we can work towards to better teaching, we spent little time in trying to figure out what actually happens within the learners when they react to our intervention. So even the more progressive styles of teaching that supposedly puts more autonomy for learning on learners have that element of them just being expected to do what teachers expects of them. In a broad sense, we still have some hint of learners reproducing what we want of them, albeit in a more roundabout way that may not involve the teacher fully realising or understanding their strategy. We use our gut sense quite a bit, putting our experience to drive this. I see this as offering information (knowledge and skills) directly from teacher’s experience, i.e. a one way process. How often have I heard that as a PE teacher, you need to role model the physical life you expect of students. It is a good lifestyle advise but very little to do with teaching well.

At times, we may think any deeper efforts are only necessary for some higher domains and not in school where we do not have much time for PE anyway and it does not help that the idea of PE as a respite to daily classroom room lessons still persist. We need a PE approach to understand better what is happening, leveraging on the best of the sciences and art of learning!

Going back to the article and podcast mentioned above; how will I position perspectives there for PE. Let me express a few points raised that sparked some PE thoughts.

Degrees of freedom has been on my mind ever since I listened to a podcast episode that looked into Bernstein’s stages of learning that refers to the freezing and unfreezing phases in degrees of freedom, i.e. the number of independent biomechanical configuration to execute a movement. This is also a metaphor for me on the complexity (not difficulty but the layeredness) of learning. For anyone who does not know, Nikolia Bernstein was a Russian (Soviet Union back then) scientist who was a pioneer looking at movement from the early 1900s. This means that this stuff has been around a very long time and the western world only got interested in it during the 60s. His work is in Russian and obviously needed to be translated. Repetition without repetition was one of his well-known translated saying and sought of encapsulate the idea of how there exist a many to one relationship when looking at movement. The redundant degrees of freedom problem (maybe not the best translated words from Russian but roughly meaning how we need to consider the variation in our coordination that allows our ability to adapt – so not really a problem) is the other closely related concept that is also a metaphor for me of how layered all aspects of learning can be. Constraints Led Approach and Non-Linear Pedagogy has some of its important fundamentals coming from Bernstein’s work.

Newell and Vaillancourt, (Newell & Vaillancourt, 2001) put forward the notion that while Bernstein’s hypothesise of a 3 stage learning process can be seen in some skill acquisition, it does not translate to a generic leaning process but rather a consequence of the type of task. The 3 stages are (1) freezing degrees of freedom, (2) gradual allowing more degrees of freedom and finally (3) exploiting reactive phenomena, i.e. I gather it as the combined passive benefits as a result of multiple active forces working together in various possible combinations. Steps (1) and (2) chronology depends on the type of task and not fixed for all learning.

This is when the paper talks about degrees of freedom and its relationship to constraints of the activity context. The degrees of freedom issue is also discussed not just from the learner biomechanical movement perspective but also in the attractor state (the stimulus that warrants the response of interest) that requires the response. This is called the dynamical degrees of freedom or the dimension of the movement system. This is also defined as what is required of the movement solution in terms of the variables, or parameters, which describes the organization of the movement of interest, e.g. the dimensions involved in delivering a ball to a target from stationary is less than doing it on the go. Whole body movement will require more complex calculations of dimensions that are mainly theoretical and estimates, i.e. I do not know enough to say more.

For PE;

In PE, we are very cognisant of the need to approach a teaching situation based on the kind of learning we looking for. In understanding and discovery approaches, depending on task, it is possible that we design activities that requires a narrow bandwidth of solution movements through direct instructions and at other times allowing a broader approach in solution expectation and teacher facilitation. The overall objective could be an attempt to get learners to be at least somewhere on the learning path rather than starting completely lost. When it comes to deciding on the expectation of movement solutions to type of teaching approach, we could do better to understand the benefits of allowing more learner searching and discovery of solution. In one of the discussions in the podcast, a study involving looking at a juggling task suggest the need to allow a more varied experience in order to expect more creative outcomes latter on.

The simple and seemingly non-PE related juggling study is an example to me as a teacher the degrees of consideration (label obviously inspired by topic in discussion) that we go through in teaching. I will label them as longitudinal and cross-sectional degrees of consideration. Longitudinal because we have many paths to the same outcome. Cross-sectional because at every stage of learning, we analyse the different possibilities to it and how to proceed to the next milestone. They are interdependent and the moment we consider them separately, we lose a whole family of considerations that potentially gets in the way of effective learning

In another discussion, the difference in allowing varied levels of controlled practise (where coordination is expected to be precise) for task accuracy or task speed (also continuous and discrete task) is acknowledged. Typically, task like stationary target kicking might result in lesser degree of freedom eventually, starting with more initially, while passing a ball while on the move will require a range of degrees of freedom control, starting with freezing of degrees of freedom at the beginning of learning and building up repertoire by unfreezing. It is not always about freezing to unfreezing. Not all task can be easily categorised into neat boxes of what is necessary. There are a lot of considerations. One aspect which I think is quite mistreated are cases where we split up a continuous task to discrete parts and control its learning path tightly in the expectations of its successful continuous existence when put together.

One perspective in the podcast was a very strong differentiation between allowing self-organisation in skill acquisition, using constraints as Constraint Led Approach (CLA) suggest, and the allowing of specific movement pattern to develop through manipulation of parameter conditions (popularly also referred to as constraints). This is also a reflection of many CLA proponents trying to clarify why it is just not a rebranding of condition manipulations for many other teaching approaches already in existence. I appreciate this clarification but the role of teacher/coach confirmation of learning outcomes, either through self-organisation or explicit manipulation, is vital as part of needed communication in any social group. The part of the discourse that differentiates CLA by excluding this verbal convergence may not help teachers/coaches embrace it deeper.

It is tempting to say that the initial freezing of degrees of freedom suggested by Bernstein theory of motor learning is about giving very specific instructions. That is not so, based on my understanding. In order to release the degrees of freedom, the first stage suggested will need the close facilitation of a teacher/coach to ensure that constrained movements have the possibility to expand to different variations, i.e. repetition without repetition. This is different from sticking to one possible solution and teaching it accordingly. In another discussion on the podcast, the confusion over the word constraint was discussed, that is using constraints to constraint, i.e. wanting to encourage a specific movement pattern, and using constraints for self-organisation of movement solution, i.e. where movement coordination are facilitated and not dictated. This is where I was glad to hear another opinion, host Rob Gray’s, also lamenting on the unfortunate focus on the literally word constraint ever since Newell made it well known. He suggested the word informative boundary, i.e. enough information from an element of a context to allow that coordination solution to emerge. I find the same issue with the word pedagogy and approach in Non-Linear Pedagogy and Constraint Led Approach. It suggest a layman educational implementation perspective of fixed strategies when I think it is more a learner development theory driving customised strategies. There is a confusion over the literal and theoretical meaning of familiar words in scientific concepts.

I come back to the dimension of the movement system or the dynamical degree of freedom. It is definitely true that as practitioners, we encounter degrees of freedom issues at many levels, not just biomechanical, knowingly or otherwise. For us, all the various levels of control issue solutions sometimes morph into a function of experience and gut feel. For teachers, this implicit teacher/coach awareness of what is needed in the successful execution of a skill seems to be aligned with the dynamical degree of freedom concept mentioned above but without the depth and explicitness. Thus, this possibly loses the benefits of understanding processes that explicitly connects the learner, and the context, to what is considered as necessary by the teacher to benefit teaching.

It was reminded very aptly in one of the podcast episodes that coaches do not have the time to spend hours in libraries and research that academics do. Same for teachers. One of the biggest frustration I experience is seemingly very good ideas being presented only behind paywalls and academic language when I have the time and energy to indulge in such search. One opinion is that keen interest is sufficient to break these barriers but I not too sure that is a fair statement. At the moment, even with access to such information, it is up to the practitioner to sieve through very difficult territory and decide how to put things together. I am thinking should it also be the other way around, where research put things together and practitioners focus on application while both having a close relationship.

References for this reflection

Newell, K., & Vaillancourt, D. (2001). Dimensional change in motor learning. Human Movement Science, 695 – 715.

The Perception & Action Podcast, https://perceptionaction.com/

Sock Balls, the Virus and Physical Education (PE) – Part 2 Reflections

Sock Balls

Part 1 Reflections

At the current point in time, I am feeling a bit uncomfortable. For a long time, I thought I knew the direction that Physical Education (PE) should be going and then this home-based learning (HBL) kicks in with the rearing of the ugly head of a pandemic. I have always consider recreational movement as an important factor of why PE is needed and therefore influencing its intervention in the quality and quantity of it. I consider recreational movement, with games being a vital part of it, as something that is very natural and will occur regardless of our PE efforts, putting into realisation of the natural occurrence of recreational movement, i.e. it is part of life on top of what we do to survive. Part of our job, briefly, is to enhance that experience. Main reason being that recreational movement can also be left to its own devices, to the possible detriment of an individual, if no deliberate effort is taken.

The problem with assuming close association of any kind of movement (or any action) to the way we live or to the need of it being part of life is that there is an implicit assumption that life is led in a certain way and we are aware of what that is like, i.e. we don’t think much about it. Now, everything has change, albeit temporary. It puts into clear perspective the potential of what we consider as important and part of the environment in which we exist in daily can be totally be made redundant by circumstances. A very generic kind of statement that sounds vague and obvious but not taken seriously until a potentially extreme situation occurs like a pandemic.

Questions that arises for me;

  • If an activity (part of recreational movement) is considered interesting because of autonomy, relatedness and competence (using Self Determination Theory as a rough guide), then what happens when fundamental aspects of the environment changes to give very different perspectives to autonomy, association and competence?

The environment has changed! Albeit temporary and the concern for me is that while we are meeting the needs of the changed climate, do we need to keep in view the next shift to normalcy that I hope we all expect and will happen real soon.

For many, space is very limited and our students may not have lying around typical sports resources, i.e. equipment and space. We rely a lot on the ability to go to the nearest facilities for such equipment and space. Two possible options for us during home base learning is workout routines for replications or emulating versus zero drills with homemade implements that represents the real ones. There is also the group of very Information Technology (IT) savvy teachers who will create online lessons in its various iteration. Everyone do all these in good faith and expect very implicitly, i.e. we may or may not think about it, that the needs of PE is somewhat taken care of. I say implicitly because we may not know how to, have the time or even consider contemplating about something that may be already muddled in the first place, i.e. where is PE heading. The popular impression might be that now may not the best time to worry about things like these when we are very urgently tasked to provide something for students at home. I will say most of us are very apt in meeting the needs of autonomy, relatedness (which is a moot point as association is extremely constrained at the moment) and competence under present condition by the activities specially designed for it. It may put emphasis on the dominance of games/activities in PE, to the detriment of all other aspects of the subject.

The important question for us may be what kind of competence and autonomy are we providing. Is it standalone for the period or is it something that can translate to when the environment opens up again. This question alludes to deeper and lasting development of original PE content.

  • Do we still focus on the old environment, the present environment or the most stable and consistent environment? If it is not the present environment, then how do we ensure that skills taught connect to an environment we want to eventually focus on?

PE is an applied subject to a large extent, meaning part of its characteristic is its need to be applied by learners to real life situations in whatever environment they are in. (As oppose to, for example, Mathematics, where regardless of environment, they are still taught the same skills and given same knowledge.) We never expected just a drastic change to the environment but nonetheless are we providing opportunities for learners to cope with the present situation and because of the extreme situation, we scramble to do that job. We provide activities that learners can do and based on feedback, tweak it to something that interest them.

These needs are quite different, or at least will be very different, once the climate opens up towards normalcy. What do we do next then? Do we attempt to connect any learnings, for those who have taught explicitly, or do we change again to the needs of the new more stable environment, which we can safely say is back to what it was. For the former, there probably was a conscious attempt to have that educating element and for the latter, probably just physical activities provision. Of course, there is a whole spectrum of in-betweens but for the sake of discussion here, will only mention the outliers.

  • Is it wise to succumb to present environment circumstances for the sake of ease while taking our eyes off the most consistent and stable environment, i.e. normality?

I put it here that I am struggling to cope with the confined conditions for PE. All I manage to do was mainly replication type sessions with hardly any attempts at educating. This immediate reaction was all I could muster and it really was a humbling time to think that after two decades of teaching, this was the best I could do. It was especially glaring when compared to the other departments who also struggle but because their needs are still the same and very structured, they have much more stability in terms of direction with comprehensive teaching packages.

Do policy influencers and professional development specialist have a role here to ensure that while we are doing our best to accommodate present environment, we still need to think long term when able? Being a strong learner-centred advocate (including physiologically), does it mean we need strong reminders of what we are doing as instant activities or educational activities, and everything else in between, i.e. understanding the nuances of the different types of influences. These reminders are not to stop us from doing but to start us in thinking how we best can manage activities and education. In order to do this, clarity of what our role is will be great but I do not see that as a priority at this difficult moment, mainly due to the already complicated position that PE is in even during the best of times. Therefore, it is down to individual teachers/departments and their respective PE mission and vision.

One possible repercussion of keeping our eyes off the round ball and getting very excited with our home made sock balls is that PE will come out of this episode with many new content and delivery abilities for teachers but with possibly more confusion of PE direction.

  • Last question: Are such questions even necessary? Can we just go with the flow as a profession, i.e. meaning we just provide what is needed for the time being?

I am still struggling to carry on with this home based learning for PE if climate still persist and am wondering why do I even bother to wonder what it will be like in the future when things go back to normal. The scramble at the moment for many PE teachers is creating sessions, regardless of educational depth, to take care of the physical of locked down kids, albeit very limited to the time we have in the schedule with the kids, e.g. once or twice a week.

In these times, one important need for people confined to homes is the need to be active and healthy. Many looking at a school system working from home will immediately allocate this responsibility for health in confinement to the PE curriculum. This may be fair as Physical Health and Fitness is within our radar. The question for me is do we fully take on this responsibility or do we need to share it with society, or at with the other domains in education, as a whole. I ask this because taking on the responsibility means we fundamentally shift the education in PE to activity provision for home bound health. This has consequences, as there are many now advocating the success of such health based activities as the future of PE. The fact is the time spent by students on such activities during home-based lessons are not even enough in quantity or quality to have that overall health impact. We are a convenient first point of contact to have this responsibility and what we might potentially end up with is limited success (or total lack of) in both educating and activity provision for daily health benefits. What we do get is tons of ‘success’ stories in media showing learners replicating movement that are probably only a shadow of what is really needed for both aims of educating and its health application.

Square Balls, the Virus and Physical Education (PE)

Square Ball

I finished off my last post with “…Suddenly, with an environmental constraint that prevents socialising and reducing space considerably, we need to re-visit the relationship between physical activity and physical education. Fodder for next discussion!..”. How true this is. There is a lot of discussion on the way Physical Education seems to be evolving now and what it means for the future. We have social media PE stars who are leading whole nations in exercising while they are at home. A particular one call himself ‘PE teacher of the nation’ and this got many practitioners who have been advocating the educative aspect of PE very ruffled. An exciting exercise session on Youtube followed by the young seems to hark back to the days of regimental PE when direct movement instructions were expected from teachers, albeit with the modern advantage of snazzy music and much privacy in the homes of followers through the latest information technology interfaces.

On the ground, there is a tremendous effort put in by teachers as they rush to create effective online lessons. For countries that are already deep into home based learning, the quandary of needing to be educative also is coming into discussion, other than creating step-by-step instructional packages. So what do I make of all these? I will start off by saying that I am myself struggling to initiate a home based learning programme that I have never encountered before and am envious of those who seems to take all these in very confortably.

I notice many of us now put a lot of effort into considering space and time factors of performance space available to our learners at home. This is interesting as during normal circumstances, we usually assume a universal availability of resources for all and do not let such considerations lead activity design. You begin to see teachers actually learning together with their students as they figure out how best to introduce what they want to, given the limited resources. This is indeed an enforced lesson in activity design that is doing many of us great service.

I notice much skill related activities online take a decomposed ‘complex skill broken to its sub-parts’ approach. Indeed, much has been said by me and many from the ecological perspective of the dissonance to physiological skill acquisition reality that comes with expecting sum of the minor parts to equal to the whole. I still believe in looking at skills from an approach of generating complex skills via working systematically on creating affordances opportunities of desired responses that is difficult to be cut up to pieces from the complete skill. A mouthful but basically saying every learner have their own way of reaching a common (generally across people) goal that may not be exactly the same for all learners.

With this perspective, does it help to teach decompose skills online? My reflection on this is positive. Let me explain. Affordances created by task and environment hinged heavily on what the learner feels is expected and normal as being part of the environment they are in, i.e. in this case in a recreational movement context. Another way of saying it is that all wants must match needs. All needs are a result of being within an environment and interacting with it through a task. All task then makes sense to the learner. The task and environment have to be a major influence to learner action. E.g. imagine there is a square ball. We want to teach the learner to pass this strange ball. We start by making stationary learners just pass the ball to each other. For the learner, this activity will not have enough purpose to create motivation to want to do it well. I use the example of a square ball because this novel description will probably also create a need to want to find out more for the reader. If I do not carry on to complete a full description of a square ball game, even a reader of this might lose a bit of excitement as compared to when first hearing about a potentially new game! Passing of a netball or a rugby ball carries baggage for most learners who have encountered it before. Motivation dwindles when a learner either believes he knows quite a bit of it or nothing at all and the activity involving it not helping alleviate either states. I.e. it is too irrelevant to maintain motivation and adherence.

This is what makes it possible for learners facing a context to want to solve movement problems willingly and with efficiency. E.g. if a learner sees a defender closing down on him, he will want to pass the ball he is carrying towards the direction of scoring zone or a teammate nearby. This is a natural reaction and ingrained in a learner since young as a result of being involved in invasion games and maybe even an evolutionary reaction to running away from an aggressor or getting rid of the object of desire of that aggressor. All the elements of personal experience, abilities, the act of handling the ball, the environment, etc. is within the preceding sentences. There is a lot effort needed if we enforced that same quality passing of ball without considering the need to do it.

For all these time, the de facto expected recreational movement game environment is one where we play with others and constraints like space, equipment, time, type of game, etc. are all implicitly not given much thought of in the sense that  we work towards what we want in a climate that gives us full choice. Now, suddenly, that is not true anymore and I will never in a million years thought that this eventuality will be conceivable just a few weeks back! Now the de facto recreational movement environment is one that is very limited without much choice. Suddenly, a PE teacher of the nation seems very apt appearing on the screen in the safe comfort of locked down learners’ homes. Skills to be taught start converging to match the new expectations of recreational movement that needs to happen in limited space.

So, does that mean we don’t aim to teach normal complex skills of team games or traditional games that require specialise space, etc. that may not be physically experienced in the near future? That is the challenge now. Do we focus on end recreational movement products that is possible (in a very limited space) and accepted now, e.g. aerobic movements led by on-screen instructors, broken up complex skills, isolated fundamental movements, etc.? I am not sure about this but I do feel that both type of experience for learners are positive. E.g. I highly suspect a single learner at home will be happy to hit a tennis ball against a blanket in their living room continuously now when just a few weeks back this activity will be considered as boring and will be lacking motivation if forced onto a learner. The climate has fundamentally shifted not only our understanding of what is normal but also influence physiological needs for wanting to move recreationally in a very confined environment.

Is there a need to start thinking of what we are doing now and how it will influence the future when things go back to normal? It definitely does if we are thinking we have achieved new PE realisation with potentially exciting, albeit in a constraint space type of excitement, physical activities (PA). We fought long and hard to differentiate PA and PE. I suspect we will come out of these unfortunate times with many abilities in moving the young and the dilemma will be in what way. With this, we must be very aware of our past knowledge and ensure we don’t put to waste the great effort from the last few decades in refining education of the physical.

Learners creating movements or Movements creating learners – in Physical Education

 

The purpose of physical education is to enable students to demonstrate individually and with others, the physical skills, practices and values to enjoy a lifetime of active, healthy living.

– Ministry of Education, Singapore PE Curriculum

Physical Education is “education through the physical”. It aims to develop students’ physical competence and knowledge of movement and safety, and their ability to use these to perform in a wide range of activities associated with the development of an active and healthy lifestyle. It also develops students’ confidence and generic skills, especially those of collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and aesthetic appreciation. These, together with the nurturing of positive values and attitudes in PE, provide a good foundation for students’ lifelong and life-wide learning.

– Education Bureau, Hong Kong

To pursue a lifetime of healthful physical activity, a physically literate individual:

  • Has learned the skills necessary to participate in a variety of physical activities.
  • Knows the implications and the benefits of involvement in various types of physical activities.
  • Participates regularly in physical activity.
  • Is physically active.
  • Values physical activity and its contributions to a healthful lifestyle

– SHAPE America

All the above requires a full reading at the cited sites to comprehend full expectations of the various bodies.

Sporticus Role of PE

Table 1 – A perspective by @Sporticus citing prominent academics  (shared on Twitter)

Movement creating LearnersTable 2

What sits the heaviest with me at the moment is the role we play as a teacher to students of various abilities, interest, motivation, etc. to health, fitness and interest through physical activities. To add to this quandary, I have been reading a lot of views recently on what exactly are we, as Physical Education (PE) teachers, responsible for and what exactly does PE do for learners (see above)? The latter is very enthusiastically looked into by academics and the former is implicitly embedded in pedagogical discussions. I feel there is an implicit belief that settling either one will sort out both and that the link between them need to be stronger and more explicit.

In my last article, I shared an observation of a little kid and his mother toe-kicking a ball between themselves. I see often in my mixed classes, students manipulating balls (round and oval) differently with their hands or feet that reflects their experience with ball handling. What I am interested in is what exactly is our role if all the above are expecting an intervention from an educational professional like us? If there is this clarity in our roles somehow, does it help in the age-old issues of do we teach, instruct, present, etc.? Does this clarity comes explicitly from the role of PE for learners?

Games are one (a big one!) part of what we do in PE. Is the offering of games a secondary responsibility for us that many times feel like our main job? You can observe this when you have very competent sports individuals coming into PE teaching very naturally as an extension to their playing experience. You can observe this when stakeholders expectations of effective PE are students being active and with game playing as the preferred activity. You can observe this when assessment revolving around game play takes on the main focus for PE.  You can observe this when games teaching focuses on the need to display correct movement without looping it back to learner understanding.

Recently, I was observing a group of kids being taught the back pass in rugby. Cones were laid out in neat rows and as the kids run down the line, they pass the ball to the next person as they move up the practise lane. The back pass involves a very counter intuitive throwing direction for beginners. The big question for me now is do we want ‘learners creating movements’ or ‘movements creating learners’, i.e. do we want potential learners to develop through appropriate movements or do we want the context, and its appropriate movements, to create that willing learner?

As I continue my observation of the young ruggers, it was evident that the passing drill was not a highlight of their morning but taken very seriously by the coaches. The next drill they went through was passes within a square as kids wait in line at the corners for their turn to run across to receive and pass a ball. Disclaimer: It so much easier to comment and critic then being in the trenches with kids!

The traditional teacher will say to correct all non-template movements to optimum ones. Optimum being what is common among top performers, with very narrow margin for variation. These optimum movements are readily available through teachers’ own experience and the multitude available resources on the area. The teacher as a facilitator for movement creating learners might not be so direct but rather find out first what makes a learner want to perform in any specific context. Therefore, if a learner’s desire of needing to pass a ball is more wanting to be a useful contributor to the group they are in, as oppose to wanting to make a perfect throw, focus can be on encouraging that. This may involve strategies to create more such opportunities. If a learner’s motivation moves from useful contributor to an efficient one, technique instructions may come in. I agree that many times, I just want efficient movers before useful contributors! The preceding sentences are over simplified but is attempting to show possibilities on what we PE teachers might endeavour for in activity design, coming from different role perspectives.

In seeking clarity in this, I believe we also are inadvertently on the road to better understand the overall concept of the need for Physical Literacy, the role of student and movement centred teaching approaches, the role of the environment and task we live in engaging us in our outcomes, the role of the learner in perceiving all these, etc. All these are topics of reflections that have taken up quite a bit of my time recently.

 The next big question for me, are the above accepted for a teacher on the ground to spend time reflecting on? On the contrary, is it more prudent that more effort needs to be put into discovering new implementation strategies, exploring tools, getting students to better meet standardised fitness testing, etc.? I have encountered many comments on needing to be very direct in sharing teaching strategies and not be too overtly “academic” in developing them, i.e. nuts and bolts over thinking about what makes things works.

My simple conclusion is that all the above is needed and that is incredible difficult for any single teacher to be this broad in teaching readiness or even awareness.

Just recently, I took over a class for a colleague for a day. It was raining and indoor venues were lacking. I decided to show the class of 18 year olds who don’t know me too well a video on the 2 hour marathon attempt by Eliud Kipchoge. My intention was the lofty aim to discuss energy systems and physical possibilities of the human body. It started out terribly, expected on hindsight – only a very specific group of running aficionados can appreciate lengthy constant running by crazed super-humans. I carried on with the video watching session by interjecting about the pacing system, the hi-tech laser lights on the ground to follow, controversial performance enhancing running shoes, choosing a flat route in a cool climate, equating the running pace to the timings expected for the students’ own 2.4 km fitness testing expectations, etc.  What happen next was incredible to me. The kids was watching a very unfamiliar movement with snippets of information relating to them at some level. They started being drawn in to the video as I fast-forwarded it to the end. They were caught up by what they were watching, aided by the simple story I was providing for it. That short session ended with all being excited as Eliud celebrated on the video after hitting the end just short of two hours. After the video, it was a breeze to add the bits I intended about the energy systems and I finished it off while I was ahead. I now need to think how to better capture the need to learn with appropriate movements next lesson for my own class!

Coming back to ‘learners creating movements’ or ‘movements creating learners’, it is more than semantics if we consider it just a bit deeper (see Table 2). One needs specificity and the other, variation. One skill centred and the other learner centred. One motivates teachers to design strategies and tools mechanically (considering pre-determined optimum solutions first) and the other uses research like strategies for innovations (looking at why the problem occurs first).  Here, it is worth bringing attention to the considerable difference in considering a problem at face value and considering why a problem occurs. Both are necessary and feeds off each. Read https://altis.world/articles/stop-dragging-your-toes/ for a fairly easy to read article of the toe-drag in sprinting and the role of considering a problem identification cue by looking at the reason behind a it. Sometimes we use problem identification cues as teaching cues.

One is for quick-fix consideration and the other looks into more layered problem solving. Of course, then there is also the non-facilitated movement that hopes to create implicit learning that many may also subscribe to, i.e. movement is learning. In some quarters, this is the ideal learning design, a Zen moment when everything is one. Movement is learning and learning is movement! In the current home based learning environment, a lot has been said how movement at home impacts Physical Education when only uni-directional movement replication strategies are used. Suddenly, with an environmental constraint that prevents socialising and reducing space considerably, we need to re-visit the relationship between physical activity and physical education. Fodder for next discussion!

References

Physical Literacy and Physical Education

PL and PE

“According to Whitehead (2013), physical literacy can be described as a disposition to capitalize on the human embodied capability wherein the individual has the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout the life course.” (Whitehead & Capel, 2013)

At a playground, I observed a mother and child kicking a ball to each other. They both are using their front of foot, i.e. a toe kick. I see the ball not always moving in intended direction. The teacher in me was tempted to suggest a correction. Then I assume that the toe pointing kicking movement is probably an automatic response to wanting the ball go the pointed direction. It will probably take a bit more expertise for the child or inexperienced mother to do a lateral positioning of the leg in order to use the side of the foot, probably an uncomfortable changing of body and leg position away from intended ball direction for a child and a beginner. It was just a natural movement to use the toes. It was ok! What happened next was quite a revelation. The mother rolled the ball back with the toes (toes always leading in ball manipulation this afternoon) and tried to balanced ball on top of her foot. The child followed suite! It was an act that I usually associate with much more proficient players but it happened here very naturally within a pure moment of play between mother and child. Physical literacy in progress?

As I explore my thoughts, I am drawn to the continuous debate occurring with regards to the idea of Physical Literacy (PL). Where I come from, the focus at the moment is on Assessment Literacy. PL is not a mainstay explicitly and my own introduction to it as a concept was very late and very rudimentary. My self-understanding at the moment is that the concept of PL is ambiguous to Physical Education (PE) at the research level (more clear evidence is needed, e.g. how PL relates to PE) but makes a lot of sense at the research-practise level of understanding from those who are keen to look at it. As for the on-the-ground practitioner level, thoughts on PL may not even exist. For me, I wonder about the continuous emphasis on progressing sub-parts, e.g. assessment, content, pedagogy; with a much lower focus on overall literacy, e.g. relationship between existing well in this world and its implications on Physical Education (PE) content, pedagogy and assessment. This is not an operational question but rather making sense of what is our purpose in schools if it is not instructing and providing breaks for classroom lessons. Perhaps, hinting at a re-look of the Education in Physical Education. This could very well be what I have been seeking clarity on for a long time without knowing that there is a phrase for it and a whole bunch of work being done for the past two decades at least!

Mark O’Sullivan wrote a useful blog summary of where PL can head towards (read it also for a sense of what is happening in the world of PL discussions) and the view that perhaps we need to shift focus to an individual-environment relationship understanding. This will be less about common milestones and levels to be met and more about how an individual reacts to context when it comes to recreational movement and exploring PL through this relationship via a theoretical framework like ecological dynamics.

One thought that comes to mind with regards to definitions and thus understanding of these process layers, e.g. PL position statements, pedagogy, curriculum, etc., for us in teaching is the conflicting needs of the different stakeholders who drive the overall education scene. To teachers, we are keen on immediate needs clarity on processes like teaching strategies, lesson packages, immediate evaluation processes, clear categorisation of skills to teach, etc. Policy makers will prefer to look for definitions that are overarching influencers of outcome deliverables, e.g. number of activities delivered, obesity level, class sizes, etc. Researchers want ontological and epistemological backing (well researched) of why we need to do what we do, e.g. academic literacy descriptors, philosophical and scientific understanding of skill acquisition, movement needs, etc. All these create much exciting separate conversations that range from the very interesting to the non-existent amongst the various sub-groups of recreational movement stakeholders. It is a big challenge. At the ground level which I identify myself closest to, you might also have professional development entities and strategies that promotes programmes and products that is hugely based on the reproduction learning process, for whom a more elaborate understanding of why we need PL clarity may not be significant enough. Take for example the excitement that comes with data collection tools that supposed to aid students’ learning. Not all data may be appropriate data unless it reflects the way we want learning to take place, e.g. electronic gadgets, tallies of touches or hits may reflect an outcome based approach if it stops at that. Will this trend differ if there is clarity in PL that is picked up by the curriculum? Will our content and assessment behaviour change with PL statements? Last but not least, how much will our pedagogical approach (not just teaching strategies but also how we want learners to learn) change if we have clear PL position statements?

By the way, PL positions are meant for society as a whole and shouldn’t just be about what happens in schools. The lack of accepted PL position statements may result in a potential gap when we strive for an outcome in school but somewhat incongruent with what happens outside school.

One big question for practise in schools may be why the need for such clarity when we are already guided by curriculum. Do we need literacy clarity as an enabler, as a central tenet, for better processes and is it enough to consider it as an outcome only, which means it is already alluded to by the various objectives of a PE programme via its curriculum. This alone probably reflects the big differences in the way we treat PL amongst the different stakeholders. I believe in the need to use PL clarity as an enabler for us to do better. In the PE syllabus in my own professional context, the intend of an effective PE programme is clearly laid out. It suggest a common expectation for all, e.g. movement competencies, health awareness, movement appreciation, lifestyle choices, etc. The expectation of all these will be the acquisition of fundamental competencies which is expected to lead to more complex competencies that will snowball to the expected outcomes of a healthy present and future life aided by recreation movement or physical activities. Whilst all these make good guides to where we should eventually be at, it may not tell us much about how we should arrive at our goals that is person centred, i.e. considering the way we are as individuals and what will makes us move towards these goals. The curriculum can play this role if indeed it is guided by overarching clarity on the need to do so, i.e. maybe via a clear PL position statement. Otherwise, it is back to nuts and bolts of instant gratification.

If you look at the often used definition of PL from Whitehead above, it reflects competencies that are person dependent (different people experience it differently) and this might suggest a need to understand fully the internal rules (scientific, social-cultural, philosophical, etc.) that explains the build-up of such competencies in a person. This might mean that a position statement on PL can only at best describe the philosophical, social, physical what of how we operate in this world in relation to recreation movement. The why and how might need the understanding of theoretical underpinnings of the different mechanisms within us interacting with our context, something which can be easily ignored if we develop statements (PL, PE, Curriculum, etc) literally as prescriptive guides.

Take for example the role of Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) or any set of sub-needs believed as significant for PL to guide PE programmes. If we focus too much at specific universal milestones for all, a lot of effort will be put into introducing such sub programmes in isolation, given that it is supposed to be building blocks for better outcome eventually. If we consider learner-environment interaction as important (not separating us from our environment), sub-parts will then be considered as active and organic parts of more complex needs. On its own, it is just independent efforts with little impact. In the same vein, my previous post explore primary abilities in movement skills as very much ingrained in context. It is only much later in matured movement education should more isolated practises (something that is merely theoretical due to the nature of being in an environment; you can never be isolated) make an appearance. I will go as far as to say that otherwise literacy takes place in spite of the teacher, a constraint that is literal rather than facilitative.

Consider the position statement recently put out by Sports Australia (www.sportaus.gov.au/physical_literacy) or from Canada (https://physicalliteracy.ca/physical-literacy/consensus-statement/). These are valuable pieces of direction that movement related stakeholders in that country can seek some kind of clarity by. These are also commitments written down formally to ensure that aspects of living well is always in consideration when moving forward in areas relating to access to recreational movement, its impact and healthy living for all.

If I need to re-look my PE role based on a literacy statement like those mentioned above, I will want to know the bigger picture of how, what and why of the key attributes described, e.g. psychological, social and cognitive health; well-being benefits; movement skills, fitness, attitudes, etc. It is important that we realise that such competencies need an experience and that there cannot be too distinct from each other, i.e. that each competency occurs in seclusion. It may seem a like a no-brainer reminder but I feel we do have a tendency to want to always put faith in working on the small bits in isolation before building up the whole picture. This sounds very much like how we sometimes unfortunately also breakdown a complex skill for teaching in isolated small parts. Experience can either be dictated or generated. We either present an experience via replication or deliberately allow responses to stimulus to start off the generating of a learner dependent experience. This will bring into the discussion the differences in our beliefs of movement or competency acquisition. Perhaps that is why it is important to have some theoretical underpinning influence at all stages of recreational movement offering, starting from PL statements and all the way to implementation strategies.

Readings

Whitehead, M. E., & Capel, S. (2013). What is physical literacy and how does it impact on physical education? (Routledge, Ed.) Debates in Physical Education, 37 – 52.

www.sportaus.gov.au/physical_literacy

https://physicalliteracy.ca/physical-literacy/consensus-statement/

https://footblogball.wordpress.com/

Not all skills are equal in Physical Education (PE) – Primary and Secondary Skills

Check this blog out in  https://blog.feedspot.com/physical_education_blogs/

Pri and Sec Skills

This reflection is my own attempt at organizing my thoughts amidst the incredible information out there with regards to the sciences in PE, within my own capacity.

The term skill acquisition is a very heavily loaded academic term that leads to a whole interesting area of science and also much contrasting discourse in relation to what we on the ground are comfortable with. At the moment, the aspect of it that catches my attention and impacts my day job is the role of isolated practises versus authentic or relevant context practise sessions. The former is the comfortable teachers-as-experts demonstrating a particular decomposed aspect of movement and working on it until a level that allows putting it together with other sub-skills to make up a whole skill. You notice the impact of the context is absent or assumed ingrained already in the way a skill is suppose to be executed. The latter is with the intention of working on a movement in the presence of the accompanying perception, i.e. the affordance that creates the need of that particular action.

There are many opinions on why relevant practise context is deemed necessary but the main crux being the idea that we are driven to action by our ecology, i.e. our person-environment-task interaction, as that is the mainstay of our perception of the world.

Isolated practises however, relies on our ability to create representations, i.e. we can conjure up in our mind exactly what we plan to do, within our cognitive system. This is something that is well ingrained in the way we think about teaching in any domains. We see ourselves as experts and we provide the necessary information to learners so that they can build up that representation. Many times, we trust that such representations can also be created after successful movements are reproduced in isolation. As teachers, we are well versed in always concluding with an overview that reflects the day’s learning objectives. Recently in school, we debated on the effectiveness of pulling learning points together after an activity as opposed to before or during it. What makes the best learning condition in-situ? My money has always been on the learner needing to be at all times, where feasible and possible, to be aware of the reasons for needing to do something, i.e. a rather teaching for understanding, ecological stance.

This is where conflicting ideas on memory and cognition rears its sometimes confusing head for some. We all know we are capable of thinking and creating all kinds of interesting thoughts and it is not far fetched to extend this to the learning of physical skills. After all, this is the basic fundamental basis for reproduction teaching where we introduce linear information for learners to take in and hopefully reproduce at will, an instruction-centric popular teaching technique for so many domains. So, what is the problem here? Is it not obvious that we can rely on teaching strategies that is mainly front loading of knowledge before execution? For isolated practises, isn’t it sufficient to paint context picture mentally and allow vital skill execution be practised without actual context?

For me, as a practitioner, I consider the above tension as being put together too simplistically. Not all skills (or movements) are equal. This will suggest that it is difficult to generalise how movements are learned if all of them are initiated and produced for different purposes. Again, is it even worth looking into this when it seems that it is just stating the obvious? I think it is important or we fall into this trap where we associate a lot of successful learning to us when learners are progressing despite us. Organic and adaptive learning potentially can happen better when a teacher takes into consideration deeper learning insights in their intervention.

One perspective for me is to look at movements as primary or secondary. I found one reasonable definition (not related to PE) for me online that describes primary skills as skills that without which, an action cannot take place. Think Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS), which I will consider as pre-primary the way I was sold on it. Secondary skills are those that allows an enhancement of an action to adapt more effectively to a context. Primary skills will require the strong influence of context and thus relevancy to achieve a high level of stabilisation (learning to use it as it is meant to). It is difficult to front load information or choreograph primary skills for learning without context. It can be done, e.g. for technique focus, but it may mean little to a learner when expecting secondary skill convergence, e.g. dribbling a ball on a fixed course in 1 v 0 activity and hoping it contributes to actual game. I will reckon that for highly skilful learners, more isolated secondary skills activities helps but not for beginners who need good execution of primary skills, a point of view that my go contrary to traditional cognitive based views, i.e. beginners need to have more isolated activities.

Secondary skills enhances the use of primary skills in the different context necessary, e.g. dribbling a ball on a dynamic course with an end objective (scoring) in a minimum 1 v 1 activity. For such skills, we tend to rely on the traditional part of our cognition called memory. We try build up successful representations by loading information through cues, instructions, demonstrations, activity design, etc. This last statement on building up a representation may be ecologically controversial but reasonable stated for practical purposes. I conclude for myself that movements are never purely just primary or secondary and thus we rely on a spectrum for learning designs.

I believe that if we do not decompose desired movements too much in our teaching consideration, i.e. keeping in mind that primary and secondary need to co-exist to some degree in learning (also in its practical existence), we will always end up with lessons that are never totally isolated and always having that bit of relevancy to an authentic context, i.e. primary and secondary skills. This might sound obvious again but a more serious consideration of this can result in many of our current practises being much richer in the appropriate learning information (not just any information), e.g. uni dimensional drills, lengthy cues, quantitative based assessment (how many times can I touch a ball), etc.

I make sense of the role of representations as a cornerstone of our traditional understanding of cognition by comprehending better the ecological dynamic idea of affordance to include the role of experience (memory) when encountering a complex task. Believe it or not, the idea that we store our experience and simply pull it out when needed is being given much re-thinking now as the idea of cognition and how it seems to operate just like a computer is being challenged.

The interesting perspective of Skilled Intentionality Framework (SIF), (Research by Erik Rietveld, 2015) in the area of Embodied Cognition suggest an enriched notion of affordance to include the interplay between affordances at any one time to present an experienced based response to a known task, i.e. simultaneous coordination with multiple affordances. This seems similar to our traditional view of how memory and experience serve our present actions, i.e. you gain from experiencing primary skills and when a familiar secondary skill (context heavy) is needed, you put the appropriate primary skills together in the right combination. There is a continuum in the way primary skills are put together for any one complex skill. You can only successfully put it together if you have gone through relevant practises, i.e. experience. This will suggest not trying to practise every possible combination of skills in order to reproduce it when needed. One of the arguments against such representation in cognition is that it seems impossible to replicate every possible response by specific scenario practise alone.

The very simple key that impacts learning here is how you present that learning experience, i.e. solely teacher-centric design or via clearly thought out primary and secondary skills that are context-centric. My simple understanding of this area of study is that there is a whole lot more of potential ramifications to our business-as-usual modus operandi when it comes to equipping learners with the right context for learning! I look forward to more clarity in this area of work for myself.

What has all these got to do with teaching PE? I am guess that many of our practitioner colleagues in teaching and coaching will immediately raise an objection to the above as too theoretical or long winded for an experienced teacher/coach who knows exactly what to do without any academic interference. It is a professional development quandary facing many teachers.

The ‘curse’ of academic ‘interference’ does exist at times. I find myself spending a lot of time thinking of issues like the above away from the classroom without the full opportunity to test it out on the field, despite my job as a teacher. When I do head to a classroom, I sometimes, too often I think, catch myself thinking of teaching only along the corridor while sorting out teaching logistics just before a lesson. This behaviour is a common practise amongst teachers and something that is probably accepted when PE is meant only as physical activities provision sessions, not educational, and enough professional development already existed from past teacher experience. The moment we start to think about learning processes within a learner as a more intricate process and not just implementation strategies outside of the learner, then we start considering the qualitative response to our interventions as casual-effect relationship rather than correlational. It becomes “This happened because I activated a learning process within the learner which resulted in that outcome” vs “This happened because I did that”. The latter is a two layer understanding vs the former more comprehensive one. We have to then consider seriously that learning happens because of the direct relationship to the learning environment and that we facilitate that situation. This will change the slant of many of our interactions with the learner as we placed ourselves outside the immediate learning arena. Our job is still vital as we are the ones who design the whole learning experience and not be obstacles to learning.

Reference

Research by Erik Rietveld. (17 December, 2015). Retrieved from https://erikrietveld.com/category/skilled-intentionality-framework/

 

Reinventing the Game for Teaching in Physical Education (PE)

RTG Revisited 1

Fig 1

RTG Revisited 2

Fig 2

As I took an overseas journey with one of our elite 17 year old football player to join his team in an international tournament, he shared his perspective on what is putting him off from PE. I paraphrase him, “I spent much time in PE doing drills…I play maybe one game in a period of about 5 weeks, with the rest of the time doing drills…I use to play volleyball happily with my schoolmates until they started teaching volleyball in PE, after which we only practise hitting the ball against the wall…in volleyball, the teacher introduce the one bounce rule but we are more than able to hit without the bounce and we don’t have a choice to take away the rule…” I can tell from his anecdotes that he has teachers who are trying their best to ensure teaching is happening but perhaps overlooking some aspects of being game and student centred. There is the need to maintain competence, autonomy and relatedness that allows for that internal motivation for students. I dread but have to admit that I might very well have skipped quite a bit of this few aspects for my classes. The need to balance between creating fun, joy, learning, etc. is so important and is a formula that is definitely organic and in the need of constant formulating for teachers. Most of our learners are much lower in competency and autonomy as compared to the above football player and will need much more innovation in teaching.

My last post talked about the hypothetical Movement Led Approaches (MLAs) in a tribute to all the wonderful theories that attempts to guide our practise. One belief I have is that even the best thought out theory needs a stamp of approval from its intended users. In our field, there are times that the seal of approval remains evasive, as we, the practitioners, are just too busy in our field to recognise the importance of being current in necessary knowledge. It is a tough battle that probably results in the theory-practise gap that we often talk about.

Recently, my professional learning network on social media (an ever-questioning Swedish professor!) pointed out the research area of phenomagraphy and the Variation Theory of Learning. Wright and Osman, (Wright & Osman, 2018) quoted Ference Marton (1981), describing phenomagraphy as a qualitative research specialisation which focused on “content-oriented and interpretative descriptions of the qualitatively different ways in which people perceive and understand their reality.” When compared to our more familiar constructivist paradigm, i.e. learners construct their knowledge from experience, phenomagraphy includes taking a step backward (or forward) to figure why the same content is understood differently, perhaps allowing us to understand social constructivism better. The concept of discernment and therefore being aware of a possible solution from a not as feasible one comes to mind. Therefore, discerning ability plays an important role in learning and it was disected further to explore what allows that better, i.e. through the Variation Theory of Learning. The paper being referenced here does not deal with Physical Education (PE) (the stretch to movement skill acquisition may or may not be significant possible) and is written from a social perspective that puts emphasis on the environment of the learner and not individual differences, which is enough for me put it to a PE context. It looks at the existence and meaning of awareness and thus possible learning.

Let me quote these lines from the Wright and Osman (2017) paper;

“According to Variation Theory the theory, a meaning always presupposes discernment and discernment presupposes variation (Marton & Pong, 2005). We can only discern a new meaning through the difference between meanings (Marton, 2015). “Every feature discerned corresponds to a certain dimension of variation in which the object is compared with other objects.” (Marton & Pong, 2005). Its central conjecture is that “meanings are acquired from experiencing differences against a background of sameness, rather than from experiencing sameness against a background of difference” (Marton & Pang, 2013). According to Marton (2015) “The secret of learning is to be found in the pattern of variation and invariance.” The pattern of variation and invariance in teaching does not guarantee learning but makes it possible. ”

The pattern variation and invariance mentioned above suggest that in order to learn, what is critical is first the ability to be aware that something needs to be learn via discernment in the learning design, i.e. what works well and what not so well in contrast. These discernment features are alternatives presented with activity design and does not support the fixed, one-solution learning activity where no alternatives are presented that allows for that discernment. This suggest an optimal learning environment that needs exploration of possible solutions in order for learning to be locked-in meaningfully. A simple outlier example given was that one could not understand colour if there was only one colour!

I am going to quote a few more lines from the paper again as it is very clear as it is;

The notion of the ‘object of learning’ is further specified by Pang and Marton (2005) as the 1) intended, 2) the enacted and 3) the lived object of learning. The intended object of learning, the capability that is intended for students to develop in relation to a subject matter content. The enacted object of learning refers to making the object of learning available to the students to learn in in the classroom. The lived object of learning refers to the ways in which the object appears to the learners.

The above screams to me our practitioner emphasis on the first two points and a big disregard or ignorance of the last point, the lived object of learning. Our teacher training and experience focuses a lot on being aware of what needs to be taught and presenting that to the students. Many of our formal structures in planning and evaluation are rather good in presenting this flow that is expected to allow learning. I call it the teacher input-student output flow of expected learning that may inadvertently ignore what happens between teaching cues and learning. While I use the word “between” which might suggest only teacher and learner variables, it is clear with the areas of expertise that I have been leveraging on for understanding that important information from context and internal processes comes together and even from further afield sometimes, i.e. social-cultural factors.

Quoting again;

Teaching involves making judgements of what is to be learnt, identifying the necessary conditions for learning and organizing educational practices to support learning. (Marton, Tsui et al., 2004). If teaching is truly focused on improving student learning towards expanded awareness of different aspects of reality, the teacher needs to understand what their students understand about the content about which they are learning. What is critical for teaching is thus not their general subject knowledge or pedagogical knowledge, teaching style, methods, skills or competences in general, but what they intend their students to learn, what they understand their students’ need to learn so that can develop their understanding of the object of learning and how they see teaching can help their students’ learning. This requires understanding of different ways in which students make sense of the content prior to, during and after teaching. Furthermore, it requires continuous assessment of the different ways in which the content is understood by the learners in relation to the aims and continuous revision of plans to further improve students learning. (Marton & Booth, 1997; Marton et al., 2004)

All these are the latest in my pursuit of understanding the context better for learning. Long ago I created a framework to help deliver teaching strategies for the teaching of games, Reinventing the Game (RTG). This framework looks at games from four perspectives; Passing, Scoring, Interception and Positioning (Replacing the original word Movement as I realised the incredible overarching significance of this word in the world of PE! – see Fig 1) – PSIP. These perspectives in its offering to students can represent rules and/or desired action-behaviour. Of course, this needs to be presented via effective pedagogy. The overarching initial desire for me to categorize all learning consistently and conveniently is to allow a familiarity of common themes between games for students in their learning and for teachers in their teaching. Over time, I find that such categorisation also allows a systematic planning and implementation framework as I discover and learn more in the field of teaching and learning, even after two decades of service. The realisation came later but I realised that RTG was also a personal philosophy of teaching where I grappled with understanding the seemingly simple elements of a game and what it takes to make games, as part of physical activities, a vital part of any learners’ life. It is about learning for understanding and creating enough ability in a learner that skills are always being generated as a mainstay of teaching as opposed to decomposing movement as primary.

Another perspective are the actual descriptors used in PSIP. They are words that equates easier in the typical vocabulary for a learner and thus understanding, when it comes to games. They are easy descriptors that can be built on for necessary complexity depending on learning stage. At the moment much of our learning in games are usually categorised into the terms defensive and offensive. For me, these usually results in a technical perspective that may not seem game-like as opposed to passing, scoring, interception or positioning. Of course, we still built up all learning to these two important elements, i.e. defensive and offensive. The other thing I notice is that any learning that involves at least two of the PSIP elements becomes game-like and representative, albeit modified, of an actual game situation. It also sorts of keeps me in-check when I spent too much time on single element activity, i.e. isolated unidimensional drills, and neglect adding a purpose for understanding for the skill being taught. E.g. while I try understand action-behaviours in terms of the four perspective above, I absolutely do not expect responses in the four areas separately to gauge learning. It might end up not being relevant and too far off authenticity to effect good leaning progression.

A key point here is that order and linearity in teacher thinking and planning does not represent the non-linearity and complexity of actual learning and thus movement in learners. I endeavour to use RtG to allow me to progressively plan for needed variability in solution exploration presented through carefully thought out relevant problem scenarios. Order within the disorder. While my learning design may involve minimum two of the four perspectives of PSIP, attempting relevancy to game context, the focus of learning for the activity can be just one of the areas.

As I look deeper into concepts of affordances (what possibilities the context present to the learner), cognitive theories (traditional vs ecological/computational vs perception-action/indirect vs direct perception), social constructs in learning (learning for understanding via experience), etc., I realised that all these are part of the big picture and that a basic guiding framework helps in supporting implementation – see Fig 2. A framework is needed to help guide if you have a group of learners facing you for PE tomorrow, i.e.

  • Where (where in a learner’s journey is something needed),
  • What (what the learner needs at the above point in time),
  • How (how we delivering what the learner needs) and
  • Why (why is what we are doing effective and needed for the learner’s understanding).

While the where and what can be guided directly by a framework like my suggested RtG, the how and why are supported by our own professional expertise in matters of pedagogy and their underpinning sciences.

Reference

Wright, E., & Osman, R. (2018). What is critical for transforming higher education? The transformative potential of pedagogical framework of phenomenography and variation theory of learning for higher education. JOURNAL OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT, 28, 257 – 270. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2017.1419898

Movement Led Approaches (MLAs) in Physical Education (PE)

MLA Pic

Movement Led Approaches (MLAs) – My theoretical description of the efforts of different fields involve in the area of skill acquisition that attempts to look deeper into the systems within the body as it interacts with the context (environment and task) to execute an action that goes beyond the intended outcome as a success factor for learning. While we are tempted to embrace popular social constructivist insights (i.e. learning is about doing and experiencing), more attention is now placed also into considering a more scientific approach that recognises role of the human-task-environment complex systems (most probably non-linear) vis-à-vis more linear central command (e.g. skill acquisition needs to be preceded by a mental representation).

I can’t help but use antagonising acronyms (for those who have enough of clever ideas known by their acronyms and for those who feel such approaches are for the intellectual/experts only) as I reflect all that is wonderful and frustrating in Physical Education (PE) for me. Especially so as I reflect on my reflective journey via social media as a PE teacher. There is an incredible amount of excitement that surrounds PE for schools now (not enough in schools though!). It was not always so progressive or even present before. I am talking about the delivery of a curriculum that works towards the pursuit of health and fitness competencies in the young through movement. The progressive sciences behind popular pedagogical thoughts may have been around for some time but the recent push to want to know more and connect it to practises seems to be very forthcoming. Of course, this is very subjective to my own experience and awareness. It could be I was just late boarding this professional enlightenment train but this reality is also scary as it is possible to actually miss it and not realise!

To a practicing teacher who have yet to be tainted (said in partial jest) with the scientific need to make sense of everything via clear to articulate scientific rules, Teaching Games for Understanding, TGfU, is the mother of them all. This is so for me because it makes the most teaching sense from the easy to embrace social-cultural point of view, i.e. understanding as corner stone of learning.

TGfU – am glad that the founders use a four-letter acronym to reflect its wonderful overarching importance amongst all the three letter ones!

Chronologically, it is not the first or only attempt at consolidating some kind of direction in teaching action skills but it came at the right time when PE is struggling to not just be physical activity sessions that relies on teacher-centred instructions and the believe that exposure is enough to create learning in an educational setting. Now, there is a movement-led revolution in the area skill acquisition. I am not sure how long it has been around or how prevalent it is but this re-envisioning focuses on movement outcomes as secondary and the varied movement actions, including intention, leading to the outcome as primary concern. For many, this is not a consideration, i.e. it is not a major concern to explore what happens between teacher inputs and student outcomes. To be fair, many of us assume we know what happens and that it is a linear computational type programming for movement to occur. Strategies are thus created based on this and not taking into consideration the possibility of a more complex process taking place between teacher inputs and student outcomes. This have the potential to make obsolete many practises that we have. In the spirit of branding everything, I will say that what is very contemporary now are the Movement Led Approaches (MLAs) that really want to explore better the perception and action coupling and its influence on teaching strategies. The wonderful thing of the learning process which I am very sure of is that it is possible to come in at any point of the hypothetical ideal teaching to learning process due to the our human ability to adapt when put in an unstable state. This means that learning always takes place despite and because of us!

I understand TGfU by its almost philosophical premises, after leaving it too long a time to remain almost dormant in my teaching life. It comes also from the social-cultural angle that learning make sense only if it means something to the learner, be it for survival, maintenance or refinement in their everyday existence. These are not explicit scenarios, i.e. survival, maintenance and refinement that occur daily in modern life, nor is it easily replicated, let alone easy to connect to our field of PE. Therefore, it requires some level of movement-led interpretation for learning activity design to bring out those needs and the follow on learning adaptations in some way.

Without a movement-led awareness, comprehending a social-cultural-philosophical under-pinned teaching approach cannot be easily achieved at teacher training but needs a learning experience for the teacher also. It makes more sense to connect social-cultural-philosophical variables to processes we go through, i.e. movement-led as described above, rather than just outcomes.

At times, it is easier to put faith in a scientific underpinned approach represented by cyclical schematics that helps in implementation. This possibly might create a teacher understanding of a pedagogy like TGfU as merely a multi step teaching strategy that is in competition with all the different acronym driven ones available. Inevitably, the need of a comprehensive background understanding is overshadowed by the easier preference to focus on cyclical schematics. It does not help that the academics and practitioners driving each field of research/practise may perpetuate this behaviour by contributing to a versus discourse. Concepts such as approaches, strategies, pedagogies, theories, etc. are intertwined and their true meanings gets conflated, as sincere folks try to compare and contrast without a deeper understanding.

In trying to win the war of consensus, the battle of understanding usually losses. This versus war is an exercise that generates much excitement and discourse that is sometimes also totally ignored by many practitioners on the ground who are usually identified as nuts and bolts people who just do not have the energy, time or inclination to follow such discussions, other than proven and ready-to-use strategies that comes without the academic rift-raft.

The world is a smaller place with electronic connections (e.g. social media, internet, etc.) that makes the search and discussion of knowledge easily accessible. This means that we get expose very easily to the experience of practitioners, academics and everyone else in between who ply their interest in the area via these electronic means. This also means the advent of the fickle practise as much as the in-depth, evidence based ones. Added to this are the proliferation of pedagogical ideas represented by easy to remember acronyms with no encouragement to focus on underpinnings and their complexity.

Part of this revolution is happening on social media. Social media has demonstrated to be one place where experts who are practitioners, academics and the practitioner-researchers interact with each other because of the convenience. It is not a perfect platform as the theory-practise-gap habitus of all still exist within such interactions, but a good one nonetheless. Much has been said about the lack a review process on social media platforms that results in the abundance of self-declared experts who try their best to share their thoughts and experience. This particular criticism may be misguided as live (or close to live) electronic interactions are just not academic journals and therefore do not need academic level standards for discourse. It is a completely different type of information repository that arises with the increase use of social media platforms. These platforms probably serves as a potentially valuable free space for information to be shared that is far superior in its reach than the “50 free copies” of journal sites that are important for the publish or perish culture of academia. I am beginning to see in this movement revolution the existence of a group of academics who embrace social media as a viable source of contemporary practitioner ideologies to support their acadeTeacher Philosophy, Ideology, Values and Beliefs in Physical Education (PE).mic work.