This reflection looks at the following questions and relating it to experience.
- “Why does a learner want to learn (or will learn) what I think should be taught?”
- “What am I supposed to teach?”
- “How do I teach what I want to teach in a way that is meaningful to the learner?”
If push comes to shove and I am forced to come out with a question that pops up in my mind as I approach teaching, it will be “What am I supposed to teach?” After this, it will be easy to understand that an appropriate follow up question will be “How do I teach what I want to teach?” Both these questions have the ability to focus much attention away from the learner. Recently, I realised a question keep appearing for me, “Why does a learner want to learn (or will learn) what I think should be taught?” This immediately brings focus back to the learner in many ways, e.g. educationally, culturally, socially, physiologically, etc. This milestone question may not be asked everyday but definitely at important junctures of our teaching journey to keep us on the right path.
If taken seriously at any level, this important focus will force us to start looking at the purpose of Physical Education (PE) and our role in it. Recently I have observed yet again the articulation of PE primarily as an outlet for physical activities (PA). This is coupled with almost a frenzy of teaching strategies sharing in the name of professional development that goes no deeper than implementation. Unfortunately, you don’t need a teaching qualification for PA provision. (PA is very important and it is the right of every young person to be provided the opportunity to be involve in voluntary PA.) With this beginning question for me, I started looking more closely into the role of the lesson in encouraging that learning which is meaningful and as far as possible, not just merely what I think it should be or how it should be. So the question “How do I teach what I want to teach?” becomes “How do I teach what I want to teach in a way that is meaningful to the learner?” So, with the a big shove, these three questions seems to be guiding me in lesson design;
- “Why does a learner want to learn (or will learn) what I think should be taught?”
- Thus, “What am I supposed to teach?”
- And, “How do I teach what I want to teach in a way that is meaningful to the learner?”
The questions indicated above operate at different levels, from the overarching perspective of why we do what we do in our existence, all the way to the micro level of implementation. Holistic understanding of pedagogy that starts from philosophy, theory and ending with implementation comes to importance here. I realised now that my initial PSIM, see Table 1, attempt was answering questions at level somewhere in the middle, more towards implementation than answering the existence question. My thinking about teaching as a whole in recent years has moved me more towards this overarching perspective, making question 1 more vital as it sorts of fix the direction for the rest.
Many years ago, before I started going deeper into what is happening during learning processes within the learner, I came up with a framework to help me with lesson design. I called it Reinventing the Game (RtG) because the big push of this framework is to get learners to look at a game from a game design point of view, i.e. they are creating a new game. When creating a game, understanding comes in better and easier, an assumption of course. In this capacity, I get them to explore what makes a game playable, playability. The assumption is that playability is what makes games the attractive choice of voluntary recreational movement and therefore an important teaching objective in Physical Education (PE) classes.
Using this RtG framework, I envision a more systematic facilitation of learning/teaching and understanding of established games that potentially allows knowledge transfer to other games. In coming up with the four categories of Passing, Movement, Interception and Scoring, I used back terms that I found myself frequently using across games to describe lesson objectives or concepts. As I delved deeper, I realised that these seemingly common themes for teaching planning also represent characteristics of affordances, attunement, rules, specific skills, etc. Now, after much words, experience and discourses with others, I find it prudent to re-look at how I came to build up this scaffold which I thought helped me immensely in the teaching of games. My attempt now is to re-look, re-define and re-word where necessary to ensure validity and relevance within my own and observed experience.
So, I propose that any game with both opposing teams competing at the same time can be looked at similarly. The premise here is that any game can be divided for teaching focus into four major areas of action behaviour: Passing, Scoring, Movement and Interception (PSIM). My original hope was that learners are engage in similar language, experiences, awareness, etc. as they move from game to game. I hope that this allows the appreciation of their learning that is not specific to just the game being leveraged on for teaching.
In any learning activity, there is a good chance that a minimum of two of these areas are worked on, e.g. movement as related to moving to an advantageous position will come closely with any activity that provides focus of passing, interception or scoring. The simplest relevant design might just involve one of these categories but it is arguable that perhaps it may be just a focused technique learning and should move on to more complex authentic experiences when initial learning of target skill has matured.
Original, I was much taken by a top down approach, where I encourage a desired behaviour by manipulating the context, i.e. my original first teacher-centred question of “What am I supposed to teach?” This is the way that really most people understand best when it comes to teaching a physical skill, a very traditional technique based teaching approach. My teaching for understanding belief however made me want to always be able to show the need for learning through a relevant experience. These four categories were original looked at as mere physical constraints primarily, with the addition of space. When I first described them this way, it is because of me attempting to control the constraints as I seek the behaviour needed. I looked at it from the perspective of how I will design a learning activity by manipulating the constraints associated with passing, scoring, interception, movement and space. I found much congruency with ideas of complex learning theories and found a great insight by Storey and Butler (Storey & Joy, 2013) in scaffolding lesson designs by controlling constraints of most relevance to achieve learning equilibrium before starting the whole cycle again. To help me in prioritising constraints for learning, I looked at action behaviours that I am seeking along the four areas of PSIM. In doing so, I also categorise instructions as activity rules along the four areas of PSIM. So, I may start off a Movement-Passing activity explaining what the Movement and Passing rule is. These rules may overlap with actual rules or adapted for constraint control.
All lesson designs must be relevant as far as possible. Lately, I will prefer advocating the idea of relevance rather than authenticity, even though the latter is a subset of the former and is something we always work towards. The reason for this is the disruptive vibe of word authenticity as a teacher tries to isolate skills for learning in designs that may not totally be obvious as being part of the real game!
The big influence in my thinking in the last many years is the idea of non-linear processes being vital part of the way we process information for learning, i.e. “How do I teach what I want to teach in a way that is meaningful to the learner?” The physiological perspective of this question for me can be seen in many established works in the areas of 4E cognition, non-linear pedagogy, perception-action related areas, etc. Precisely because of the different silos of very good work taking place, it was a challenge for me to pick and choose what matters to me and I am sure this is also a dilemma for many practitioners needing to apply these progressive sciences. Teaching is a difficult profession to align to any one body of research. We are jacks of all trade and fortunately masters of none or we will never get work done, said tongue in cheek but to a large extent my truth also! So, this insight in how cognition might be behaving is a way of looking at design from a bottom up approach, where we try our best to understand how the human body learns to adapt to its context.
The concept of affordance is heavy in my approach now. Providing that learning opportunity (attunement) through lesson design that is specific to the family of skills in question. I say family of skills because of the importance I place on degrees of needed freedom while controlling for the redundant ones. These ideas come from ecological psychology and dynamic systems theory, ecological dynamics! Again, my resolution to be an expert in these areas is weak but I really am attracted to the working end of what these sciences say. Main reason for this is the game-centred approach background that was heavy in my teacher training and my own experiences in teaching and learning for myself. The last point is probably the biggest influence for me strangely, my own learning experience of games as a teacher trying to be adept at games, a life-long metacognition journey of a teacher being a student with a mind of a teacher! So now the four area of PSIM are also quick to understand descriptors that looks at the different affordances needed to give that meaningful learning design. The intent is not decomposition, i.e. breaking up a skill for separate learning with eventual expectation of putting it back together, but rather generating, i.e. using understanding of important affects of affordances that with correct introduction and manipulation will generate the desired movement in its full or partial relevancy. So, I will say that Table 1 represents question 2 and it is up to me to ensure question 1 and 3 is sorted also for good design of learning opportunities.
The affective is another aspect that I have yet to piece together in this bottom up approach, i.e. emotions, motivation, etc. At the moment, I make a big assumption that embodied cognition is also a good proxy for embodied enactment of affective competencies. This probably has a further tremendous impact on the question “Why does a learner want to learn what I think should be taught?” from an overarching existence perspective.
Storey, B., & Joy, B. (2013). Complexity thinking in PE: game-centred approaches, games as complex adaptive systems, and ecological values. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 18(2), 133-149. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2011.649721