Monday, December 28, 2015

The PE Teacher as the Lead Learner and Leadership for Learning in PE

Reflecting on the PE Teacher as the Lead Learner and Leadership for Learning in PE
In Australia we recently had the Australian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education (ACHPE) endorsed in September 2015 This continues a lengthy period of curriculum reform and restructuring that began in the 1970’s with a Federal Government initiative involving ‘situational’ or school based curriculum development - The purpose being to move curriculum control from state to school level. While this wave was about decentralisation of curriculum control, the next wave of reform in the 1980’s was about the type of education necessary for Australia to compete in a globalised economy, and the nature of ‘essential learnings’ for this global perspective. Reform re-emerged in the 1990’s in the guise of ‘competitiveness’ in the globalised economy and the ‘key competencies’ that would bring productivity to the Australian workforce. Emerging from this education debate was the first attempt at a national curriculum framework, referred to colloquially as ‘Statements and Profiles’. Most states did not adopt the curriculum ‘Statements and Profiles’ developed by the Curriculum Corporation, instead during the mid-1900’s and early 2000’s developing their own curriculum standards and outcomes framework. In South Australia, that was the SACSA Framework Some very good curriculum writing occurred during this time to support the curriculum frameworks, such as the Queensland Sourcebook modules I often share the Fair Play Basketball module with my PETE students as an example of unit planning to aspire to

Why go through this trip down the curriculum memory lane? I was involved as a trial school teacher and then HPE Coordinator implementing some of these more recent 1980s-2000’s curriculum reforms before moving into teacher education, and it was participation in these curriculum initiatives and my observations of who embraced and who ignored the curriculum imperatives that sparked my interest in educational leadership. In the early 2000’s I embarked upon a Masters of Education (Leadership).

I remain interested in the contradiction that despite enormous progress in our understanding of the learning process, what teachers can do that makes an educational impact on student grade achievement (see, for example ), and developments in pedagogical clarity HPE classrooms that I enter today look more similar than different to the ones I used to enter for observation during my PETE in the early 1980’s. Some of the research I have done recently from an appreciative inquiry perspective suggests that the (H)PE teachers who are doing things pedagogically and in curriculum design that look ‘contemporary’ see themselves as learners who, no matter how long they have been teaching, are not yet fully formed and want to continue to learn about pedagogy and content knowledge. In contrast, some teachers don’t seem receptive to ideas that are not consistent with ‘the way’ they were taught to teach (H)PE at teachers college/university.

I have in the past used the phrase ‘leadership for learning’ to describe those (H)PE teachers invested in their own ‘lifelong learning’ for personal and professional development and fulfillment
Chapman and Aspin (2000, p.7) defined lifelong learning as “the constant re-organising or restructuring of experience”. Experience and reflection on literature I encountered during my Masters study formed in me the view that leadership for learning is an ongoing process of collaboration and conversation about the needs of the individual learner. The leadership is thus necessarily reflective to inform future practice. It necessitates reflection on understanding, new awareness, and both existing and emerging contexts locally, regionally, nationally and increasingly, internationally – in order to lead and not merely react. It dictates the leader be a meaning maker, beginning with the belief that education is centrally about the individual learning to be self. For the (H)PE teacher, they are thus both the ‘lead’ (first) learner in their class as well as the leader of the learning of others - the (H)PE students. The leader of learning thus focuses on self-understanding as the starting point for their learning, as well as the learning of the students. The physical educator must thus I believe ‘walk the talk’ by modelling lifelong learning.

One of the first papers I wrote in my new career as a PETE educator included a model of leadership for learning.  Adapted from Delors (1996) four pillars of education: 1. Learning to live together; 2. Learning to know; 3. Learning to do; and 4. Learning to be - the core of the leadership for learning model was the teacher learning personally and professionally about self . My teaching and thus research took me away from my interest in educational leadership; however, as I think back over 2015 and a research project framed as an appreciative inquiry on teacher adoption of the Sport Education Model ( ) in a secondary school over many years, I am reminded of a conversation with one of the teachers that I believe evidences leadership for learning. Given the large research base evidencing mostly student preference for the model, and validity of the tenets of the model for achievement of its three aims, I was asking ‘why it is that the model is yet to achieve ‘mainstream’ status in Australian secondary schools HPE programs’? In the conversation, both teachers recalled they were introduced to the Sport Education Model during a PL event, continued to attend PL about the Sport Education Model when offered, and suggested ‘reading up’ on the model before starting the unit of work every year was part of ‘the way they went about things’. Further, both teachers made sure the students were well informed about the Sport Education Model and why it was being implemented before beginning the unit by negotiation of student teams, committees and roles. I suggest the teachers are good examples of leadership for learning in PE.

In my nearly thirty years as a PE teacher the landscape has changed from planning from 'teacher objectives', to 'essential learnings', then to 'key competencies', and then student learning ‘outcomes’ and ‘standards’. Each has involved learning a new way of thinking about curriculum design and pedagogical enactment for the enhancement of student learning. However, research indicates that the ‘multi-activity’ curriculum model that became popular in PE in the 1970’s remains the most common form of program expression in Australian PE – despite well documented concerns for its capacity to deliver meaningful educational outcomes in, through and about movement.  What does this say about leadership for learning?


  1. Why does it remain the dominant model of instruction Shane? What do teachers need to do to break this cycle? As they teach should they be solely focused on one model or is effective teaching dependent upon pulling bits and pieces from the various models out there in an effort to reach each student?

    For example, to use a golf metaphor here, I can play the same golf course every day for a year, but each time I play it, the conditions presented to me require me to assess multiple factors before making important decisions on how to proceed forward and execute each actual shot. We can teach the same units every year and within those units, we teach the same students multiple times. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using just one teaching model within this approach as opposed to taking bits and pieces from multiple approaches? I don't know the answer to this question but am more or less thinking out loud here.What are your thoughts?

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