“The original idea of blog publishing was that writer and reader would be on the same level. That it would be a conversation – not a lecture.” (Nick Denton)
This quote highlights the reciprocal and interactive nature of blogging, and how reading someone else’s work can inspire you to write your next blog. As a result, Zachery’s talk on ‘The effects of physical exercise on learning’ and James’ blog on ‘The power of college football’, have inspired my topic for my second post. Too often we like to focus on the positives of the current education system, however recognising its flaws can help progress pedagogy. Thus, my post this week will be on improvements to Physical Education in schools.
It would be naive to argue against the importance of physical education classes. There are numerous psychological and academic benefits to playing sport, including increased self-esteem and confidence (Ofsted, 2013; Bailey, 2006), and improved social skills such as teamwork (Bailey, 2006). If taught properly, engaging in physical education will encourage children to participate in an active lifestyle beyond their education (Ofsted, 2013).
However, the current system does not benefit all students. If an individual struggles at maths, they are often provided additional learning support so they can reach their potential within this area. However, if a student struggles at P.E., they are buried under the competitive nature of the subject, which will reinforce their dislike. The students’ lack of motivation towards P.E. may cause them to think their sporting ability is unchangeable (Wang et al., 2002). This could potentially alienate them from participating in sport from a young age (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003), which may contribute to the increasing number of overweight individuals in society. It is therefore important that the education system ensures that children can gain control of their ability and be motivated to do so, in order to increase activity levels.
It is clear that children with limited physical abilities are often left unconsidered in physical education while at school. Prior to GCSEs, there is more focus on a student’s physical performance and less on their academic ability in this subject. Therefore, how can a student who is not talented at playing sports, but could excel in sporting research or theory, be motivated to pursue this direction at GCSE level if schools have not previously allowed them to explore their academic ability?
Pupils should always be given a choice. Alternative, non-competitive exercise such as aerobics should be provided to increase participation (Ofsted, 2013), and theory lessons before Key Stage 4 for those interested in sports research. These theory lessons may also help tackle the obesity problem, teaching students about the risks associated with obesity. A review by Kahn et al (2002) found that classroom-based health education can increase students’ self-efficacy about sport, so long as the programme is effective. Ideally, this would help them recognise the importance of sport and exercise, and become more motivated to take part in both. 71% of boys and 84% of girls in the obese category wanted to do more physical exercise (NHS, 2013), and increasing their self-efficacy may help them reach their goals.
Physical education before Key Stage 4 often involves situated learning, with the majority of adults unlikely to still pursue the sports they played at school (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003). Siedentop’s Sport Education Model provides a more transferable system. Real sporting procedures are used, for example pupils sticking to one team for the duration of the ‘season’. The teams will have practice sessions and take part in competition, with the teams’ points recorded. This increases the sense of teamwork for both high and low-ability players. Alternative opportunities such as scorekeeper, team manager and equipment officer are provided, allowing low ability pupils to feel more involved, and knowledgeable about the games (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003).
Conversely, following on from my blog last week about ensuring gifted and talented pupils are not held back in education, it is important to ensure that any changes increasing participation within the sport curriculum does not detriment the effort put into students excelling at sport. An alternative solution to this is to create ‘game afternoons’, where students are grouped by ability. This allows the pupils who excel to focus on performance, whilst those who struggle can focus on enjoyment and engagement, with tasks broken down into smaller, more achievable steps (Ofsted, 2013). It is debatable as to whether the sports education model of entire class involvement, or grouped ability classes would benefit the entire student cohort best.
Education is about balance, and personalising physical education to individuals’ abilities is a successful method in ensuring all pupils are engaged with the subject. However, in my opinion this isn’t enough. Students who have limited talent in playing sport should be given opportunities to learn the theory of sport, research areas of interest and gain an enjoyment for the subject prior to GCSE, so that they are more likely to pursue it at higher education. The fact that a student, passionate about the benefits of physical activity on health cannot catch a ball or win a race, should not prevent them from reaching their potential.