curriculum,  Meaningful PE,  Professional Development,  Quality PE,  Research,  Teacher Reflection

PE Proposal #2

Wealth by Reiterlied CC BY SA

It takes a village to raise a child – this saying has come back to me after a week of amazing conversations from Beijing to Saudi Arabia – social media and our #Physed village have come out in full support.  My most favourite conversations are ones that are not affirming but rather ask a lot of questions or share research that allows time for more discussion and more questions.  I really value these interactions and have found it very reflective as I consider both the scheduling chats (how will we make this new timetable work for our PE students and staff?) that I have been a part of but also how they are grounded in learning (what theory or practice is driving us? How does this fit into the scheduling chats?) as we ponder how to move forward for next year.

The image below is the revamped thinking based on conversations with others and thoughts from these conversations and resources.    The text underneath the image is some examples of how we might put our units together based on giving students choice into how they might like to learn – this has been heavily drawing on Andy Vasily reminding me of Ron Ritchhart‘s work on Culture’s of Thinking. as well as the podcast with Scott Kretchmar where he and Andy discuss the Pursuit of Happiness and the importance of Joy and Delight in movement.  All of this resonates deeply with the work that Tim Fletcher is doing as well as part of the team who are sharing Meaningful PE and how we might consider our lessons and curricula from more than just motor competence or sport learning.

The other work that I have read and drawn from includes articles from Dawn Penney and Shaun Wilkinson about ability grouping and looking at the effects of this on classroom teaching and student learning. They looked at a series of schools in the UK and looked at how students were grouped, and the impacts that this presents to student learning, student self-concept as well as teacher perception and its impact on student learning. It was interesting to read their conclusions and to reflect on my classroom – we have a random set of students in our classes but grouping within that group of students constantly changes based on the outcomes of the lesson or unit, the unit we are studying, social relationships and behavior effects within teams or groups. I also was reminded of John Hattie and his work on student learning effect sizes and that teacher perception and expecataion has a very big effect size on student learning.

Dr Shane Pill has also had an influence for me as I reflect on practice and scheduling. Shane was good enough to share the South Australian Teaching for Effective Learning Framework guide with me. He pushed me to consider what Learning or Educational theories were guiding our decision-making processes and it was a great push for me to consider and reflect on best practice. Again, Tim Fletcher has written a chapter in a recent book (Conducting Practitioner Research) about Philosophy of how we teach and to make visible our implicit and explicit philosophies as teachers. As I have been reading the SA Teaching framework, I have been reminded about how I interact with my students and how to bring that to the centre of what I do as a teacher by making sure the schedule will work in that capacity!

The proposal I would like to share in April with my department is below.  I would say we randomly divide students into 2 groups and then within those groups we offer the opportunity to self-divide and choose to learn based on our own experiences and risk-taking; it draws on gaining confidence where we feel safe and giving students time to think about where they best learn, where they want to learn and what makes learning meaningful.

Ex. Invasion unit (3 weeks) with Inquiry into being a stronger community of learners (kindness/ respect/ collaborators)

Self-select between:

  • Small sided games that are modified and work with skills and drills (with choice of equipment, space, timing, groups etc) in Soccer or Basketball or Ultimate (?)
  • Play a full version (or such) of an Invasion Game (ex. Basketball) so that you are working to full rules, space, ball, and team size

Ex. Net/Wall unit (3 weeks) with Inquiry into a strategy for success (observation, planning, reflection, perseverance etc)

Self-select between:

  • small sided games that are modified for Volleyball (mini-volley, spike ball etc) that focus on skill building that transfer back into gameplay that use different spaces, equipment, rules all to reinforce and learn about Net/Wall
  • Play volleyball or Badminton or Tennis as a full game – offer doubles and singles play and make it competitive with learning using full rules, court lines etc.  Much stronger emphasis on the learning and improvement of skills for that game specifically.

Ex. S&F unit – Inquiry could be into? (not sure yet)

Self-select between

  • Small sided S&F lead up games as you move to T-ball (choice of equipment, space, groupings etc)
  • Play Baseball as a game out on the pitch with gloves, proper ball, bats and safety equipment for Catcher etc.

If we chose to continue by offering student choice throughout these main units, we could look to remove Choice as we currently offer them in our G8 program, as we are actively offering choice in every unit we teach.

Questions I still have:

  • Are we okay with having groupings that may not be equal in numbers? One teacher might have 15 and the other 28, is that ok?  What is the min/max we think works for keeping learning safe and challenging for our students?
  • We would have to have some conversations about how we self-select and how we enter the right learning point for us.  

Ex. Swimming

The choice could be between

Appropriate level or teaching of swimming – those who want a Swim workout could choose that pathway, those that are interested in looking at specific strokes or inquiry into swimming could look at another pathway?


Chen, Ang, and Catherine D. Ennis. “Goals, Interests, and Learning in Physical Education.” The Journal of Educational Research, vol. 97, no. 6, 2004, pp. 329–339., doi:10.3200/joer.97.6.329-339.

Wilkinson, Shaun D., and Dawn Penney. “The Effects of Setting on Classroom Teaching and Student Learning in Mainstream Mathematics, English and Science Lessons: a Critical Review of the Literature in England.” Educational Review, vol. 66, no. 4, 2013, pp. 411–427., doi:10.1080/00131911.2013.787971.

Wilkinson, Shaun, et al. “Setting and within-Class Ability Grouping.” European Physical Education Review, vol. 22, no. 3, 2015, pp. 336–354., doi:10.1177/1356336×15610784.


  • mhamada

    Thank you Tim for taking the time to read and comment on this blog post. I find that I take delight in talking about the How, What and Why of our teaching and trying to find out where others draw their bias and justification from. We are such passionate educators in our office, and we all come from different backgrounds and want so many things for our students – but it has been challenging to agree on how best to serve our community of learners with the other constraints that come with PE territory. I have really enjoyed (and still am) trying to work this out – the grouping of students (and teachers) also comes down to how different teachers teach, what makes us truly comfortable and what challenges us and how we might team teach or roll with our own class of students – so many things to consider. (and as you know you also have to consider the Safety aspects, facility use and seasons as well as all the rest). Not an easy task but well-worth discussing and coming to consensus to make the program richer and stronger. (hopefully)

  • Tim Fletcher

    Thanks for this post Mel. You clearly have a lot of decisions to make here, with each decision having a knock-on effect for other scenarios and situations. This would serve as an excellent example to show new teachers how complex good teaching is – and this is before you even set foot in the gym!
    I really like the idea of giving students choice in their groupings most of the time but some of the research on social interaction shows that students also like to have grouping decisions made for them from time to time because it pushes them outside their comfort zone, lets them work with others they might not usually work with, etc. I guess it comes down to striking the balance between them choosing and the teacher choosing (e.g., 50/50? 75/25? 25/75?) You and your students are best placed to work that balance out I suppose.
    My initial thought is that swimming is one area where ability grouping perhaps has more appeal due to safety, but I am wondering now if that is because we have always done swimming that way… Just a thought.
    Thanks for sharing your insights into practice and your students’ learning. Wonderful examples for others to learn from/with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *