The Adaptable Mind
This video highlights 5 traits that Tiffany Shlain believes are at the core to being successful in today's world and in watching it I agreed with her, whilst watching this I was thinking how does this relate to PE and the curriculum that we deliver to our students.
As an inquiry teacher we should be creating an environment that encourages questions and enables students to explore these 'wonderings' which can lead to even more questions. An example of how we have encouraged this in PE, is through the use of our 'Wonderwall' where students are able to post questions, or wonderings they have related to their unit, or broader concepts. Due to increased PE time in our schedule, we have also been able to give students time at the start of lessons to play with equipment, observe one another or to improve upon areas that they want to work upon. I also think that this ties in with how autonomy can motivate humans, as highlighted by Daniel Pink in Drive, for more on this look at my book review.
Creativity has always been a bit of a dark cloud over me, and that may be because of my archaic interpretation of 'creativity'. Creativity is not just art based or does not even need to be a fresh, original idea. Creativity can be about evolving an idea of someone else to make it more appropriate to your needs or drawing connections from experiences that others may not. This may be as simple as asking students during an adventure challenge activity, to stop and make a connection where they have had to demonstrate similar thinking, skills or collaboration.
Prior to taking initiative students need to be aware of a change or development in their thinking this could be done through a visible thinking strategy such as connect, extend, challenge or I used to think, now i think. From this students will make a decision, whether or not to take action, if they do teachers will need to support and model this process. Who would be a good person in the school or community to talk about this idea with? Or even from another from another country, would that change their perspective? A scaffolded plan and then gradually helping the students gain more independence with their ideas till they are taking their own initiative .
Multi disciplinary thinking
Instead of looking at PE as a singular subject where students repeat skill drills , how can we make connections with what we are doing in the classroom to our outside lives. Whether we look at cultural dances and their significance during our Movement Composition unit and how these movements express emotions, feelings and traditions. Or looking at the broader concepts of relationships, resilience, fairness and emotions.
Whenever I think of empathy I think of this cartoon of a talk by Brene Brown. Empathy is being aware and sensitive towards how another person is feeling, and the PE environment provides regular teaching moments to discuss empathy. I previously blogged about our Conflict Corner, which has been a big success and it became evident that a lot of conflict between students was simply through not understanding how another person is feeling, or the reasons why they are feeling that way. In some respect children, when given the tools to do this are better than adults at this as children are less judgmental than adults (point proven with my judgment right there!) . Once they share how they are feeling, the other child recognizes this and understands or relates to the feeling, whether it is frustration and not knowing what they are suppose to be doing or feeling lonely as they are not being made to feel part of a team.
Starting at AISB in 2013 it was my first position in a PYP school, or where I was first able to gain experience (to put on my CV) that showed inquiry teaching. Initially, coming into the PYP I felt overwhelmed by, what looking back I consider to be, unnecessary buzzwords or lingo linked to the PYP without a clear understanding on how the hip lingo would transfer to a classroom, or more specifically the gym.
As I have continued my development as a PE teacher at AISB, I have come to the understanding that inquiry is not a specific philosophy solely of the IB, it's just good practice.
Creating an environment where students draw and make connections with their prior learning, whilst being given a voice to make real choices about their learning are, I believe, the foundations for inquiry. Learning is a two way process both for myself as the teacher and the students, through collaboration and cooperation students are able to enhance their capable, creative and curious minds; we learn from and with others. As inquiry driven teachers we have a responsibility to promote a growth mindset, setting challenging work and ensuring that in the face of adversity, they are able to persist, question, reflect and learn from their mistakes.
I am in my 8th year teaching PE and my fourth as a PYP PE teacher, yet I continually feel like I am scratching at the surface in trying to ensure I have a maximal impact upon my students lives... and this excites me! I only hope that my students will enjoy to continuing to scratch the surface!
Drive - Daniel Pink
Daniel Pink gave this twitter sized summary at the end of his thought provoking 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The book focuses upon our developing understanding of motivation and how current practices are ‘outdated, unexamined and rooted more in folklore than in science.’ Pink highlights that human motivation has evolved from primitive forms (survival) to carrot and stick and now to what Pink calls, ‘Type I’, or Type Intrinsic.
Without spending too much time on Carrot and Stick, Pink provides numerous research based examples that highlight the archaic carrot and stick method of motivation, or extrinsic rewards such as bonuses and trophies, method can in the long run have a negative effect on not only motivation, but also creativity.
Pink puts forward his research backed alternative, the ‘Type I’ drive stating that ‘human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated people achieve more and live richer lives.’ Type I is dependent upon 3 ingredients; autonomy, mastery and purpose. It is from now, in this blog post and beyond that I will have to consider how this will impact, among other aspects, what I plan and deliver at school.
‘Autonomous motivation involves behaving with a full sense of volition and choice’ – Deci and Ryan 2008
Pink goes on to explain that autonomy is different from independence and it means ‘acting with choice – we can be both autonomous and happily interdependent with others.’ Pink also highlights several behavioral science studies that show ‘autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understanding, better grades and enhanced persistence in school and sporting activities.’
The PYP gym at AISB is placed between our Early Childhood classrooms and Elementary school. When starting my professional development program at the end of the last academic year, (one of my goals is creating an environment that supports self directed learning, or autonomy among my students in PE) I started to observe some of the Early Childhood classrooms and I noticed a disconnect between what was happening in EC, students moving freely around different stations working on specific tasks at their own pace to a more structured environment within ES. Is this because of the expectations of the curriculum? Are parents and leaders within the schools different? Perhaps it is a reflection of how us, as teachers, ‘manage’ classes to coerce, control or direct learning?
Working within the PYP, an inquiry based curriculum, lends itself to student autonomy well. After initial conversations with fellow PYP PE teachers at AISB, our conceptually driven PE curriculum can also support this. At the end of last year, following on from what I had observed in EC and from a key note speech from Andy Vasily at the ECIS PE conference, during a net/wall games unit we gave students the choice to choose between activities that they’d want to participate in for example Tennis, Table Tennis or Badminton (we are supported in doing this as our timetable enables team teaching). I have tried to take this further, this year allowing students the first 15 minutes of a 80 minute lesson to work on skills that they themselves believe they need to improve. Students can choose who they work with, activity ideas with QR codes support and teachers as needed. Students are accountable for their own learning, which can be shared with the class, the teacher, through an exit ticket or through them developing further questions after the session.
Pink defines mastery as the desire to get better and better at something and as autonomy leads to engagement, this is a natural progression. Pink highlights the work of Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’, which has now been added to my list of books to read. Flow is described as the optimal, most satisfying experiences and for Flow to be effective Csikszentmihalyi states that there must be set structure to the activity. There must be:
● a clear goal
● immediate feedback
● challenge well matched to ability
When designing activities for students, teachers should have them aligned to the learning objective and ensure that they are differentiated to match the class's varying needs of students' abilities; also considering the speeds at which students work or develop can be irregular and unpredictable. The focus upon this stage, for me at least, is immediate feedback. Dylan William talks about the importance of formative assessment and it being the ‘bridge of teaching and learning’ and the differing types of feedback (ego involving or task involving ) and how these affect learning.
These videos were shared during a PYP faculty meeting last year. I have thus been critically reflective upon the feedback I give as I try to ensure feedback is improvement based; leading students to think about the activity and where they are in their own learning (self-assessment) and how they need to do to improve, leading to purposeful practice.
Feedback can also be more powerful when received from a peer, benefiting the person receiving the feedback and also the person giving the feedback, as they need to think through what the success criteria is for an activity and what they need to do to get there. This is something that I have become more aware of when planning learning engagements. Enabling students to become student teachers enables the idea of ‘immediate feedback’ to be a realistic expectation when leading activities or during self-directed/ autonomous learning time.
The final stage of the Type I drive is ‘purpose’, which provides the context for autonomy and mastery. The purpose or role of PE within a school curriculum is widely discussed, particularly by people whose experiences of PE were similar to those shown in the movie, Kes. (Even just look at the description of the video ‘a poignant snapshot of all those PE teachers we had’) PE was perhaps seen as an accessory to the school day, a side note to where the learning took place, in the classroom. Through research, a change of focus and more recently social networks ( most noticeably #physed on twitter), PE teachers are sharing good practice, making PE a relevant component of 21st century education, with a focus upon developing social and emotional skills as opposed to just physical, game specific skills. A PE program ensuring ‘Physical Literacy’ is an outcome and students are able to go beyond school and participate to help others lead active and healthy lifestyles; this must be an aim shared and made explicit with students so PE is relevant to the students and education going forward.