Trainee teacher 5: surely there’s no place for research in PE?
How did reading research affect my teaching practice?
Physical Education (PE) is just a time for pupils to run off some energy and have a play, surely there’s no place for research in the subject?
Over time, PE has evolved to become a holistic subject that engages both the mind and body and places emphasis on not only physical literacy but also the development of life skills leading pupils to adopt informed, healthy lifestyles. Though the public’s perception of the subject varies dependent on their own experiences - I can confirm that research has a very important place within PE. The development of pedagogy to name but one aspect of the profession. Throughout my teacher training year, research has been pivotal to my improvement as a teacher; shaping my practice and informing me of a variety of ways in which I can lead my pupils to make good progress whilst also achieving high levels of engagement.
Research is continually being developed about the pedagogy of PE, advancing the way in which we teach. From Mosston and Ashworth’s Spectrum of Productive and Reproductive teaching styles and the more traditional “Motor Learning Theory” type lesson (where drills are delivered before a game is played), to the more student-centred explorative game-based, competitive focused models such as Bunker and Thorpe’s “Teaching Games for Understanding” and Siedentop’s “Sport Education”. The reading that I have undertaken during this PGCE year has opened my eyes to the spectrum of PE pedagogy that exists and has given me a great insight into how these can be embedded within PE. Their detail and case studies have meant that I have easily been able to implement this within my own practice. Having a range of styles within, what I like to call, my “tool box of teaching” enables to me to select styles that are most appropriate to the pupils I am teaching but also to be experimental, take risks and try out new ideas.
As a result of my reading, I have seen my own “socialisation” be reformed during my journey to become a PE teacher. Socialisation is the process of how I, or any individual, is influenced to become a participating member within the teaching field (Lawson’s Occupational Socialization Theory is a very interesting read on this!) Throughout my schooling I was exposed to command style PE teaching, where all decisions are made by the teacher, and as a result of this saw this as the way to teach PE. Through exploring research and applying this to my practice I have shifted to predominantly adopting student centred teaching styles, where my responsibility lies in scaffolding, differentiating and facilitating, the pupils are empowered. This has had a great and positive impact on my teaching, especially with my higher ability groups where my mentor encouraged me when I adopted the use of the “Teaching Games for Understanding” model as an innovative, engaging style of teaching- which I then shared with the whole department.
Obviously, you cannot expect that research will work in your environment in the same way that is reported- but taking risks and experimenting can lead to a refreshing, stimulating learning environment. Reflection is a big part of being a teacher and by asking yourself about the success of approaches, comparing this to the literature, considering pupil response and progress you can come to your own conclusions on what works and what doesn’t. But I have learnt that one approach does not fit all and to therefore test methods with a variety of pupils- they’re all different! For me, I intend to continue to engage with research around the pedagogy of PE, to continually add to my tool box in order to positively benefit my teaching career beyond my training year.
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