Strategies for Encouraging and Developing Student Voice IN PE

The Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools proposes (Recommendation 3) the idea that students have a voice and be partners in their own learning. This is not to suggest that students choose what they want to learn as a   curriculum framework exists that describes student achievement standards and content descriptions.

In this blog, I look at some of the ways teachers can bring student voice into the PE setting using choice, negotiation and visible thinking strategies.

1. Talk with and listen to students to help determine content form
Viewed through a constructivist lens, teaching begins where the students are at. This requires some form of assessment of students skills, knowledge, abilities and interests. Finding out what students do to be active, and what their ideas are about being active, are good starting points for assessment of student interest. The Australian Curriculum HPE, and state based developments of this curriculum, don't prescribe movement forms and prescribe instead Focus Areas such as Lifelong Physical Activities, and Games and Sport. The teacher can make all the decisions about content form, or they can bring the student voice into that decision making. Adopting strategies to find out what students know, want to know, can do and what to be be able to do better, connects to the Key Idea of the HPE Curriculum to be strengths-based by understanding the students, their context, and their needs.

2. Encourage students to develop as responsible and self-motivated learners
A. Choice
Student voice can be invited through the provision of appropriate choices. For example, the teacher PE teacher can define A. What are the core tasks everyone must do/achieve? B. What are the choice tasks? C. What are the extension tasks for those who want to 'go beyond'. In my own work, I have often used Blooms Taxonomy and 'Multiple Intelligences'  as a means by which to frame Core/Choice/Extension activities.

B. Student reflection
Encouraging student voice doubles as a means of  making student thinking visible so that teacher knows how students learning journeys are progressing. I like using DeBono's Thinking Hats to structure student reflection at the end of lessons. Plickers are a recent development that enable the PE teacher get either feedback on how students are feeling about their learning, or some student self assessment of their learning. There are many examples available via social media explaining how PE teachers are using Plickers to bring student voice into the PE classroom.

Image from where progressive physical educator Joey Feith has a good explanation of how to use Plickers in PE 

Another PE teacher consistently delivering examples of quality PE teaching is Mel Hamada (Mel's blog can be found here). In the 2015 Edition 2 of Active and Healthy Magazine, Mel explained how she makes thinking visible through a structured inquiry process: Claim/Support/Question.

There are many student reflection scaffolds that can bring student voice into PE and 'make learning visible', such as Think-pair-Share routines, Mind Map generators, Exit Cards, student journals and blogs.

C. Students co-constructing understanding
Student voice comes into the classroom when students are invited to generate their explanation of 'at standard' demonstrations of performance or outcomes. This is a very good example from another progressive physical educator Jace Ferguson's Twitter feed (Visit Jace's blog here):

Co-construction of learning can occur peer-to-peer. This can take the form of 'bench coaching' each other's performance. Various tools exist to scaffold this activity, and the Tennis Australia Tennis for Primary Schools program contains many examples, which can be adapted to all sports taught in PE, and many recreational activities. One I like for Years 4-6 to assess game play is the Team Sport Assessment Procedure.

Pedagogical Coach Andy Vasily has two great examples of engaging student voice in PE at his blog, PYP with Andy Look for the Teaching Health Related Fitness blog and Empowering and Action Through Physical Activity Blog.

Providing a class environment where students can ask questions and offer their own thoughts and ideas is central to bringing student voice into PE. The Game Sense approach is excellent for this because inquiry is a core part of the cycle of learning in a Game Sense approach, as shown in the following illustration of the Game Sense approach.

Another way of encouraging student co-creation of understanding is through games making. I prefer to facilitate games making by scaffolding the creative process through primary and secondary rules, to connect the activity to the idea of games having a 'logic' created by the primary rules. For example, this idea for cricket.

Image from Play with Purpose: Game Sense to Sport Literacy, available here

3. Use the Sport Education curriculum  model
Central to the Sport Education model is the provision of individual and team responsibility for elements of the planning and execution of the unit of work. When executed well, the Sport Education model is from start to finish a teacher-student-peer co-constructed learning environment.

The 6 elements of a Sport Education season

The best resource to assist implementation of a Sport Education model is the Complete Guide to Sport Education In addition to being the most research tested PE model, the model has been research tested with athletics, aquatics, gymnastics and adventure activities units of work. I often get asked why I refer to the Sport Education model as a curriculum model rather than an instructional model. I refer to it as a curriculum model as other instructional models are used within the Sport Education model. For example, the Game Sense approach is used to deliver the game competency objective of the Sport Education model. Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model and/or Cooperative Learning model can be used to frame delivery of the engagement objective of the Sport Education model.

In conclusion, bringing student voice into the PE classroom is likely to have effects for many students in the affective domain of learning and particularly motivation and engagement. It is also a way of demonstrating a democratic classroom. In terms of 'powering up' the PE setting for learning, there are strategies for scaffolding student voice that makes learning visible. A good summary of student voice and learning research can be found at Sound Out: Why Student Voice? A Research Summary 

End Note
Jennifer El-Sherif has a nice article on Student Voice in PE in Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, Volume 27, Issue 5.
There is a good discussion with practical ideas at #slowchatPE Do students have a voice in your class?


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