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Critical Perspective on Teaching and Learning

This is an excerpt from Essentials of Teaching Physical Education 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access, The by Stephen A. Mitchell & Jennifer L. Walton-Fisette.

The outlines and descriptions of a teaching for learning approach look fantastic on paper and have great potential for implementation and success in your physical education programs. As physical education teachers, we know that each of our school and physical education contexts differs from one another even if we are teaching the same grade levels. It is exceedingly important, before any curricular, unit, or lesson planning occurs, that the context is considered. Some considerations for your context can include who your students are (i.e., social identities, the community that they are in, what they have previously learned, their level of access, their interests), what your physical space entails, the types and amount of equipment available, the number of physical education teachers, the philosophy and beliefs of the teachers, and the number of days and the amount of time students receive physical education. The take-home message here is that context matters—significantly. Having knowledge and understanding of the school and physical education contexts is critical prior to any curriculum and instructional planning.

In this second edition, we have added a critical focus across context, content, and pedagogical practices in the teaching for learning approach. What does this mean exactly? Simply put, it means that it is important to analyze critically all aspects of teaching and learning: the context in which the teaching will occur, the student body, all aspects of curriculum and instruction, and, certainly, what we teach and how we teach it. For example, how will the units of instruction align with the students you teach? Are your decisions based on traditional, white male–dominated sports and activities, or do you take into consideration students of different races, genders, and (dis)ability? When reviewing the standards and outcomes, do they consider inclusion across all genders, races, sexualities, and so on? Are they appropriate and applicable to all students? Do we create a comfortable and safe environment in physical education for all students? If so, have we considered the voices and identities of students when making curricular and instructional decisions? We argue that questioning and critiquing what we do on behalf of our students to create a more equitable and socially just environment is critical to the teaching and learning of physical education.

In addition to having a critical focus, we know our units and lessons do not always go according to plan. There are a wide range of reasons as to why this occurs, and as you gain more experience as a teacher, you learn how to adjust and adapt. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered this teaching for learning approach significantly. All physical education teachers were forced to quickly transition their lessons to online instruction that minimally resembled what we had planned to teach at our schools. Many teachers who focus on a skills-based approach began to emphasize more physical activity and fitness since many students could engage in such activities in which equipment was not of primacy. In teaching remotely, how do we meet the expectations of a teaching for learning approach? A standards-based approach? How do we keep the education in physical education and not solely focus on physical activity? How do we integrate the social aspect of learning when students are in isolation? All of these questions have certainly sparked higher education faculty and K-12 physical education teachers to consider how we can alter our physical education programs to meet the current needs of our students. We should be doing this always, but the pandemic has certainly forced us to make this happen. It is important to note that in a standards-based curriculum, some standards span the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains. This is a time when we can certainly emphasize the cognitive and affective aspects of physical education in addition to the physical, which may include developing fitness plans; practicing plans for skills or movements; and teaching explicitly about social justice, equity, and trauma-informed practices.

More Excerpts From Essentials of Teaching Physical Education 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access



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