«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
The following chapter extends this discussion by presenting a model to help understanding and to pinpoint specific, practical ways through which the teacher development process can be improved. A component of this model is a typology of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE which is an outcome of the data analysis process. Whilst chapters 5 and 6 separately explored the phenomena from individual and external structure perspectives, each element is brought together within the model so that the combined effect of both dispositions and structural factors is made explicit. The typology itself exemplifies trainees’ dispositions and experiences seen within this study and suggests ways in which the possibilities of action can be developed beyond the currently limited opportunity for a few trainees who begin ITT with an already positive disposition towards the subject. The model, and consideration of training needs for different trainees across the typology, enables a range of recommendations to be made to better support the development of all trainees as teachers of primary PE during ITT and within CPD opportunities.
STRUCTURES, DISPOSITION AND PRACTICE IN PRIMARY PEITT
How does primary ITT impact on the development of trainee primary teachers as teachers of primary PE and how can provision be developed to better support trainee primary teachers in this regard?
This question necessitated viewing the trainees’ lived experiences of primary PEITT from the interrelated perspectives of dispositional and structural elements to fully understand how these work in tandem to enable or constrain practice for trainee primary teacher development. By approaching the issues from this perspective, several implications for the development of primary PEITT are highlighted.
The discussion in this chapter is supported by a detailed exploration of 5 individual trainees’ experiences during ITT and the relationship between structures, disposition and practice in each case. As discussed in Chapter 4 (and as detailed in appendix 9), the research was centred on a decreasing sample of respondents who were studying a three year, undergraduate, ITT course. The PSPP and PIP scales, administered to 83 trainee teachers at the outset of the investigation and the ITT course, yielded data regarding dispositions which suggested themes for further investigation through subsequent qualitative enquiry. In particular, the patterns and trends identified within the PSPP and PIP data supported the initial identification of ‘types’ of trainee primary teacher in relation to PE. As the research progressed and the number of participants decreased, the qualitative data informed the development and refinement of this typology, taking account of the dynamic relationship between structure and disposition in individual trainees’ experiences. Twenty four trainees took part in group interviews (Stage 1b); fifteen trainees participated in the first individual semi structured interviews (Stage 1c). In Stage 2 of the research, the number of respondents reduced from fifteen to fourteen and then to six, enabling a detailed qualitative exploration of experiences. These six trainees (Becky, James, Kay, Leanne, Ria and Sarah) participated throughout each stage of the investigation;
five of this group are the focus of the detailed discussion and analysis in this chapter. Four of these trainees (James, Kay, Leanne, Becky) each represent a specific type of trainee, whilst the fifth (Sarah), demonstrates the dynamic nature of the structure, disposition, practice relationship; Sarah is a trainee who straddles two of the four categories within the typology.
The sixth, Ria, is not included as a case study in this chapter; data collected and analysed in relation to this trainee confirmed findings represented by the others trainees and analysis of this data here would be repetitious. During Stages 3 and 4, the sample was broadened again (to eight, twenty six and finally one hundred and twenty) to test, refine and confirm the typology and theoretical representation of the relationship between structure, disposition and practice.
In Stage 4, a draft typology and theoretical representation of the relationship between disposition, structure and practice was shared with the original eighty three respondents and, a year later following further amendments, with one hundred and twenty final year trainee teachers at a different institution. Feedback received during the final stage of the investigation supported refinement of both the typology and understanding of the relationship between structures, disposition and practice.
The dynamic relationship between structures, disposition and practice As discussed in chapters 5 and 6, a range of factors has been seen to influence the experiences and practice of trainee teachers in this study. For each of the five detailed cases, a highly individualised, complex and multi-layered relationship between structures, dispositions, and practice was observed. The properties of primary PEITT have been shown to be a medium and outcome of the practices they recursively organise (Giddens, 1984, p. 25), neither the actions of the trainees nor the influence of the ITT structure independently offer sufficient explanation for the observed phenomena. The structures of primary PEITT, themselves the outcome of earlier actions, pre-existed and placed conditions of action on the trainees. However, the experiences of trainees in this study also demonstrated potential for individuals to ‘do otherwise’ by drawing on a set of particular ‘rules and resources’ which became available through social interaction (Giddens, 1979). There is a balance, therefore, between structures placing constraints on individual trainee actions and the potential for individual choices and decisions to be made; this relationship did not always lead to a tension or dissonance and the structures are viewed as either enabling or constraining in this regard.
The experiences of each trainee within the study have not been linear or entirely predictable, although identified patterns and trends suggest that trainees fall within generalized categories, or types. In any one trainee’s case, however, the extent to which disposition or a specific element of the ITT structure becomes the key influencing factor in determining practice is highly individualised and care should be taken to ensure that the dynamic nature of the model is acknowledged. The relationship between structures, disposition and practice is conceptualised in figure 7.1 as a series of dials, the relative position of each for individual trainees being determined by a wide range of factors.
Figure 7.1: A model of structures, disposition and practice in primary PEITT The model shown in figure 7.
1 enables a range of practice to be envisaged as an outcome of the relationship between disposition and structures, as disposition interacts with various elements of ITT, other people within ITT, and wider influences. As shown in figure 7.1, a central dial represents the range of dispositions towards PE and sport shown by the trainees, categorised as positive, negative or ambivalent. This range of dispositions, as discussed in chapter 5, is strongly linked to previous life experiences, including the trainees’ own experiences of PE as school pupils. Moving outwards from the dispositional centre, five further dials represent the range of structural factors which have been identified within ITT, namely elements of the university course, school based practice, the influence of other people and the effect of prevailing policies (for example, the curriculum and subject strategies) as discussed in chapter 6. The ordering of these dials may be different in each trainee’s case as particular factors assume greater or lesser degrees of importance at any particular stage. Some factors evident within a particular dial, such as an immediate exposure to the teaching of PE in school following university lectures, may foster the development of disposition in a more immediate way than others. Similarly, other dials will have very little bearing on trainee disposition where particular practices are not evident within immediate experiences.
The outer dial of the model represents the range of practices demonstrated by the trainees in the investigation. This is made up of four generalised categories, each of which is typified by specific practices and particular learning and development needs. This outer dial represents a typology of trainees in primary PEITT, the categories of which include all trainees observed within this study. The dynamic structure of this model suggests potential for changes to disposition or structural influences to result in a trainee’s practice becoming more recognisable as a different ‘type’. The boundaries between the types are shown as dotted lines to represent the possibility of change and the prospect of movement between types as a consequence of particular experiences. The exact positioning of trainees within the typology is dependent upon the relative positions of dispositional and structural factors. In this way, it is possible to imagine each dial moving as a consequence of particular factors and experiences, combining to create a constraining or enabling influence on trainee teacher development in PE.
Case studies Kay: a confirmed avoider At the outset of the ITT course, Kay exhibited a very negative disposition towards PE and sport. This was indicated by low PSW score (6, being the lowest possible score, shared with 2 other students in the sample of 83), along with a low sport competence (6, being the lowest possible score, shared with 2 other students) and low PIP sport importance score (2, being the lowest, shared with 6 other students). Factors influencing disposition were seen to include negative personal experiences in school PE and sport and a lack of wider life experiences that were seen in other cases to impact positively on disposition. Kay’s prior experiences in PE and sport concur with the notion of an influential apprenticeship as an influence on learning to teach (Curtner-Smith, Hastie & Kinchin, 2008; Rusznyak, 2009), a phenomenon which was seen to have enduring impact for Kay throughout the ITT experience. Despite this very negative starting point, Kay tolerated compulsory PE lectures in year 1 of the ITT course,
confessing to being a little surprised that the experience was, at times, enjoyable:
I wasn’t looking forward to it, but the tutor was quite sympathetic and we were all pretty much in the same boat… well at least the students who I worked with were all quite like me really, not sure about it… The sporty ones were doing things a bit faster, but I just took my time and actually learnt quite a lot of tips (Stage 1b).
As a consequence of this course, Kay acknowledged that PE had some importance for children and demonstrated an improved awareness of the PESSCL strategy. For Kay, the importance of
PE was rationalised for its health benefits. She explained that:
I have got some ideas now that I could use in school, although I am not sure what I’ll remember in the future and I am not sure whether I’ll be any more confident in teaching PE in school. The tutor explained that there is a big push about PE and sport at the moment, so we’ll see, but it is important, what with obesity and those concerns (Stage 1b).
In this way, Kay’s disposition was seen to change slightly; within figure 7.1, the central dial can be perceived to turn so that a less negative stance is evident as a consequence of PE lectures during the university course. Although Kay’s experiences in compulsory lectures were more positive than she initially anticipated, the on-going structure of the course did not allow sufficient time for negative prior experiences in PE to be the rich resource for exploration advocated by Brown and McNamara (2011). Kay completed the PE course without
experiencing the full range of NC activity areas and this itself raised questions in her mind:
The lectures did give me some ideas and I think I might be able to go back to my notes if I had to teach PE…but not in all areas…to be honest though, I am still not confident and it’s going to take more than this to make me into a PE teacher.
It was alright, but I still feel that it just isn’t me… it’s not where I feel comfortable (Stage 1c).
The structure of the NCPE, based on six activity areas, was therefore seen to be problematic, raising concerns regarding the extent to which Kay felt confident and able to teach all activity areas. Linked to prior experiences, Kay perceived the subject as being akin to sport, characterised by competition, performance and physical prowess. This was further reinforced through course documentation, such as the PE audit (appendix 13) which placed an emphasis on the activity-based structure of PE. Unsurprisingly, Kay did not elect to study further PE modules in years 2 and 3 of the course, and was not encouraged by professionals in the ITT context to do so. Although a movement of Kay’s dispositional dial was originally perceived as a consequence of PE lectures, the overall impact of the university PE course and NCPE structure restricted and negated this potential for change. The dispositional dial can be perceived to slip back into a firmly negative position as a result of these experiences.
This constraining effect was also seen through the impact of school-based experiences, which served to highlight the role of current educational policy. Kay’s experiences in school were largely devoid of PE related opportunities, a consequence of the remodelled workforce and various class teachers’ practice. In year 1, Kay was placed in a school where external coaches taught PE lessons during PPA time. This confirmed the impact of the remodelled workforce previously noted by others (e.g. Lavin et al., 2008; Griggs, 2010) who claimed that this had led to a dramatic increase in the number of adults other than teachers working in primary PE.