Interconnectedness. Meaningful lives. Using the Force to change the World.
Any superhero story is sure to leave the audience uplifted and inspired to go on and do great things. You are left with a feeling of shoulder back, standing tall, and hands on the hips ready to face every challenge ahead. This week, ISB invited Peter Dalglish to come and share his upstanding message. With no powerpoint or slide deck, music or gimmicks, Peter shared his message with our staff for an hour and received a standing ovation at the end. Motivational with truth, wisdom and collective World experiences that have changed his landscape have molded him now into an activist in the International Schools community.
Peter’s talk started about his own modest life and the pathway that seemed to be his destiny. You can read any superhero story and realize the pathway our modest hero is taking and then there is that catalyst event that spirals our hero into a new narrative and so it was with Peter. An intelligent and astute man, who loved the Law and aspired to be a lawyer, his narrative changed with the famine in Ethiopia. He has since met many people who were changed by this World event and others who were changed by World events and recall their life-changing moments by historical events like these. Peter sprang into action and ended up working in Ethiopia and with children affected by either famine, misplacement from war or natural disaster and worked alongside others who knew this was where they were supposed to be.
Peter talked of death. He spoke of war and logistically challenges for those who are trying to work in war conditions to assist people affected by the actions of others. Peter talked to us about assisting children in Education, particularly girls who can not get the education they need and how our International students, particularly in China, can be on the front end of major change.
Peter called us to action. Do we want to raise students who have skills and opportunity to create lives as Bankers? or do we want to empower our students to Change the World with these skill sets and live a meaningful life? How do we make them the best they can be? And then how do we use this best? We were left pondering this vision. How do we grow our students to be outstanding and then to choose the alternative narrative? How do we connect them to the World beyond University placements and test scores and make connections beyond our school?
Peter spoke about three big World changing events that we must find solutions to in our lifetime (or our own children’s lifetime) and our students are the ones that will need to come up with these solutions.
- Nuclear proliferation – Will we wonder why the West didn’t intervene and do something about North Korea and nuclear arms? How will we explain how we sat passively while a dictator and mad-man got away with the destruction that he is bent on creating?
- Climate Change – What are we going to do? Our World is in a state of major change because of inaction and ignorance. The Oceans are not getting better and if they die, the Earth will die with them. How will we fix this? And do we have enough time? If we cannot fix it, how will we leave Earth and where will we go?
- Pandemics – with our global interconnectedness comes the spread of major diseases. The next pandemic will cause cataclysmic death. How will we solve this challenge? How do we prepare? How do we manage? How do we stop the spread?
Peter’s sharing left many of our staff teary and in shock. It is one thing to read these current events in the news, but another to have someone asking us to be called to action and sharing personal stories of war and death. Peter maybe someone who has experienced extreme human suffering and his stories can be deflected by those of us who may not ever see life as he has. But his call to share what our students could do with their lives was inspiring.
This last year I have been working with Shane Pill to try and apply for further study. This is something I am passionate about. After Peter’s talk, I felt more inspired to get busy and apply to study. I see that the work that I feel strongly connected to is important in PE and non-PE spaces as each of the three areas Peter discussed require soft-skills that our students must learn and practice in schools. We must teach our students about the importance of how to work with others as well as how to be self-directed and lead oneself. Peter asked us if our school was teacher-driven or student driven. Student-driven schools use social justice to ensure that they are working for the good of the school and work hard to connect to those who need them. He shared some examples of students working with technology to tutor students who were affected by earthquakes in Nepal and how the students had taken this on, not the teachers.
I encourage all PE people to think about how they are explicitly teaching the personal and collaboration skills that our students need to be effective community members. This has to be actively taught and reflected on.
I am sharing my (almost completed) abstract below that I am hoping to do some study on with Shane Pill in the future. I hope he won’t mind me sharing it here. As always, comments or sharing would be very welcome, especially any Prof Development conferences, workshops, online spaces or articles that would be useful in this space.
Humanistic Education has evolved from the work of Humanistic psychologists led by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow that emphasizes the importance of self-actualization, an awareness of one’s potential and self-talents and through positive mental health. Humanistic Education is an educational approach that helps students believe in themselves and their potential, “encouraging compassion and understanding, and fostering self-respect and respect for others” (Kirschenbaum, 1982 p25) and has concerns for human welfare, values, and dignity.
Humanistic Physical Education is sometimes associated with the work of Don Hellsion, due to his book on this topic published in 1972. Hellion’s ideas in this book evolved into a responsibility based model which focuses on social and emotional learning, or the affective domain. This model is known as Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR), and it is the most widely accepted model in this umbrella of models that now also includes Sport for Peace (Ennis 1999), Youth Sport and Development (Martinek, 2009), and Positive Youth Development Through Sport (Holt, 2008).
Other physical education pedagogical models focus on common physical education focus area, games, and sport. The Tactical Model (Metzler, 2011) known as Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) (Bunker and Thorpe, 1982) is possibly the best known of these models globally, as well as having spawned a number of pedagogically similar approaches, such as the Game sense approach in Australia (Thorpe, 2006). The spread of descriptively nuanced but pedagogically similar descriptions has resulted in the TGfU Special Interest Group proposing the term Game Centred Approach (GCA). GCA is just one of the many pedagogical models that Physical Education teachers can use when teaching Elementary School, Middle School or High School students about movement competencies.
Chinese culture has been greatly influenced in recent history by the One-Child Policy and this has led to 90% of newly formed families in the large urban areas having only one child (Dudley, 1990). There was great speculation that this large only-child generation would become a “spoiled generation characterized as effeminate, sluggish, willful and selfish ‘Little Emperor’ (Han, 1986 cited by Settles et al, 2008) because of the increased amount and adult-time and resources spent on them. In 1986, a large newspaper in China the Guang Ming Daily, conducted an in-depth discussion on this issue and their conclusions were that only-children would have “superior nutrition, health care and overdeveloped intelligence but be imbalanced on psychological development and have less attention to moral qualities (Feng 2002, cited by Settles et al, 2008). Settles (2008) writes that over the last 25 years there have been more than 200 research studies on only-child academic and personal development and that it is commonly agreed that compared to children who have siblings, only-children “tend to be more advanced in the development of certain cognitive, emotional and physical domains.”
Chinese students have long been practicing an examination-oriented education system with strong teacher-centered pedagogies and follow examination syllabuses (Yeung, 2015). In addition to regular school, about 80% of students take extra training classes on weekdays and weekends in a variety of subjects including math, writing, computer, music, English, dancing, and arts (Settle et al, 2008). Medical advances, improvements in health care and improved nutrition have increased life expectancy across the World. This increase in life expectancy has had a profound impact in China where a growing elderly population is relying on its younger one-child generations for support. (Settles et al, 2008). Children are bearing the burden of these expectations with childhood becoming the time sacrificed to studying over leisurely playful times. (Nie and Wyman 2005 cited by Yeung, 2015).
Chinese families place a high value on jobs with a high degree of autonomy and independence over affective domains of learning. (Yeung, 2015) Physical Education in Chinese schools is characterized by a combination of three elements: classic Confucian thought on self-cultivation (the process of educating yourself) of the body, the heart, and the mind. Secondly by the Maoist traditions of homogenizing and military mass sports; and thirdly more recent developments that emphasize individual competitiveness in sports. (Kajanus, 2016)
In Australia, constructivist ideas such as student-centered learning (Carl Rogers, 1965), which replaces lecture-style teaching with teacher-student collaboration and activity-based learning (Nanney, 2004) and provides a system of learning with the student at its core (Brandes 1986) and guided inquiry, through open-ended questions that allow students opportunities to consider different solutions; investigate and try out their thinking and then explore their solutions and thinking. (Pill, 2013, Kuhlthau 2015). In Physical Education the GCA model is student-centered and promotes guided inquiry through problem-solving through gameplay.
I propose to investigate creating/testing/using a hybrid Responsibility based model and Game Centred Approach model with Middle School students in an International school or school’s in Beijing, China. Since the Financial crisis across the World, there has been a changing student demographics across many International schools in Beijing. Many schools are seeing less Western student enrolment as many businesses and companies reduce costs by reducing the number of families or offering different incentive packages to expat employees. This means that many International schools are changing their enrolment policies to ensure they can stay open and attract and maintain student numbers. This shift in student numbers and student climate is greatly changing the cultural landscape in many International schools in Beijing. Teaching Responsibility models to our current student population are vital to growing the soft skills (such as attitude, responsibility, communication, leadership) required to work collaboratively in a changing global economy. The purpose of this study would be to research, investigate and evaluate the use of a hybrid instructional model on the growth of personal and interpersonal behaviors (Responsibility, Respect, Attitude and Advocating for self and others, Self-direction and Caring of others) in Middle School students within the confines of a GCA game environment.