Building Inquiry into Physical Education

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Last week, our Physical Education team met in order to weave more ‘inquiry-based learning’ into the way Phys Ed is taught at our school. The team came away excited about the planning session, and is now making two significant changes to the way the Phys Ed program is being presented this year.

1) Enduring Questions. After much discussion about the long-term goals of the teachers, we boiled down the vision of the P.E. program into 2 questions. These questions are given to the students as a way to weave common threads throughout all the different units.
  • How did you best develop your skills?
  • What makes an effective team member?
The purpose of the first question is to move students beyond the basic, what skills did you learn this unit/year, to begin thinking about how they develop their skills. The desire of the teacher was to move students toward being self-directed, become better at self-assessing their skills and abilities, and to put the onus on students to identify areas for improvement. The goal is to help students think about learning resources for skill development other than the teacher.
As a way to build more authenticity into the project, the Phys Ed team is also hoping to get local athletes to provide their own answers to the two questions. They’re wanting to collect video podcasts of the athlete’s responses to be shared with students.
The purpose of the second question is to have students reflect on the particular attitudes that our P.E. teachers nurture. As the students move from sport to sport, each unit is designed to have a different attitude that is stressed, for example: leadership, risk-taking, or goal setting. The question what makes an effective team member is a way to pull together all the different attitudes that are presented throughout the year.
2) Portfolio Based Assessment. This year our Fine Arts and Phys Ed team are adopting portfolio-based assessment, and moving away from traditional report cards. In Phys Ed, the two questions: How did you best develop your skills? and What makes an effective team member? will become the focus for the student portfolio. Here’s an example of the year plan from our grade 4-6 Phys Ed teacher, outlining the units covered, the skill development, the attitude stressed and the form of assessment used.
Each student will have their own blog, and are being asked to capture evidence (written, video, image or spoken) from their Phys Ed classes that answers the two questions. At the end of each term, students will be responsible for compiling and sharing their findings to their parents, using their blogs to host the evidence of their learning over the term.
Overall, the Phys Ed team is excited about the possibility – although there’s some healthy fear and concern about this new direction.
We’ll be sharing the results as the students begin to collect artifacts of their learning.