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«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»

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The recommendations detailed in this chapter arise from the discussion running throughout the thesis and include newly configured professional development opportunities which could increase the potential for more primary trainees to become confident, knowledgeable and committed teachers of PE. The recommendations focus on changes that can be largely implemented within existing ITT courses and which can be adapted and applied to the various pathways of ITT now evident within the teacher education context. Sustaining the development of primary PEITT when policy continues to evolve is an important consideration for course providers.

Recommendations for practice The recommendations for practice presented here constitute changes to the structures of primary PEITT which would enable greater sensitivity to individual difference, increased flexibility regarding the potential for change in trainee disposition, and a shift from a view that all trainees will reach the same level of preparedness to teach PE by the end of the ITT process. The recommendations are particularly relevant in light of the current government proposals regarding ITT (DfE, 2011b) through which the interface between university providers of ITT and schools are to be altered. The proposals are designed to enable more schools to lead teacher training (DfE, 2011b, p.15), working in alliances with other schools and universities. The DfE argue that school placement is one of the most important aspects of any ITT route, and that the benefit trainees derive in this context is directly related to the quality of the experience; the importance of observing outstanding teaching, with opportunities for practice to be modelled are highlighted. The findings of this research suggest that school based provision is currently a weakness within primary PEITT and specific steps should be taken for this heightened government focus on school experience to be best utilised.

Recommendation 1: Provide greater opportunity for reflection and differentiated learning Given the wide range of trainee dispositions towards PE and sport, it is prudent to suggest that providers of ITT consider how best to provide meaningful learning experiences for all trainees. The provision of just one compulsory module for all at the start of the ITT course, with an optional elective course for some trainees in each of the two subsequent years, does not cater for the diverse range of needs seen amongst the trainees in this investigation. Each type of trainee described in chapter 7 has contrasting prior experiences, beliefs and knowledge in relation to PE on entry to the ITT context, and learning opportunities could be more effectively designed throughout the course with this in mind. This necessitates a less rigid course structure and expectations for trainees which are more flexible and responsive to particular professional development needs. In some cases, NQTs will be ready to quickly aspire to subject leadership roles in PE, whilst others may lack confidence to teach a whole class of children without considerable support from others. Course providers are therefore encouraged to consider providing a greater range of flexible learning opportunities from which trainees select at different times within the course, in negotiation with tutors and school based colleagues following reflection on and in practice. The need for opportunities that encourage trainee reflection on personal experiences and practice in PE and sport during primary ITT has been previously documented (Curtner-Smith, 1998), yet this has been seen to be lacking within the ITT context under investigation. The structures, disposition, practice model introduced in chapter 7 provides a new and potentially useful focus for reflection. Asking trainees to self-identify their positioning within the outer dial of this theoretical model could lead to exploration of prior experiences and consideration of how these relate to their future work as primary school teachers. In doing so, trainees can be enabled to work with course tutors and school mentors in the negotiation and shared planning of learning experiences which more fully take account of individual difference, and which are designed to manipulate the dials within the model to best effect.

Reflection can be facilitated in a variety of ways, by individuals, in groups or in whole cohort lectures. Initial reflection regarding positioning within the typology is suggested in a group context, as a non-threatening means through which generic issues can be initially identified.

Subsequently, the use of reflection to plot a course for on-going development should be centred on a more detailed, one to one discussion, through which specific needs can be identified and learning opportunities planned. The use of reflection to determine ensuing learning in such a way makes the need for differentiated experiences more explicit; in the model of ITT seen in the case study institution, individual differences have been clear, yet masked within course structures. Other than the opportunity to select additional modules in PE, little choice has been evident within learning opportunities in the subject. This has allowed individuals to navigate learning experiences without the necessary levels of support from others. Whilst this recommendation for reflection is not new, a more focused use of this reflection to plan specific, differentiated and negotiated learning experiences provides a renewed focus on this aspect of PEITT. The structures of primary PEITT should allow trainees time and support to reflect regularly, and for this to be facilitated through on-going support from professional colleagues. Whether this is provided by tutors in the university setting, or school based teaching staff, is an important consideration for course providers, and this will depend on the relative strengths that such professionals bring to the ITT context. The government-suggested changes to ITT, which would see the creation of new partnerships between training schools and universities, hold potential for new dialogue and staff development in this regard, an issue which is explored later in this chapter.





Recommendation 2: Review expectations regarding the progress of trainees Given the range of individual positioning within the typology, an expectation that all trainees will become confident and committed teachers of PE within the timescale of ITT seems to be misplaced. This is particularly true for confirmed avoiders, for whom very negative disposition has been seen to be highly resistant to change. The prevailing QTS standard regarding coverage of the NC does provide some flexibility in this regard, stating that those awarded QTS ‘should have sufficient understanding of PE (and the other NC Foundation subjects) to be able to teach with advice from an experienced colleague where necessary’ (DfES/TDA, 2002). Trainees in this study were, however, seen to progress towards, and achieve QTS, without demonstrating their abilities in teaching PE, and did not receive the requisite advice from an experienced colleague. This was caused by, and in turn further reinforced, the relatively low status of PE in practice, suggesting to trainees and school based professionals that this formal expectation, as expressed in the QTS standards, could be ignored without consequence.

Trainees’ understanding of PE was, however, formally demonstrated within the year 1 compulsory PE module (appendix 14), and assessed on a pass or fail basis. This assessment required compulsory attendance at lectures, creation of annotated notes based on lecture content, and a ‘one side of A4 reflection’ regarding on-going professional development needs.

Given the experiences of trainees in this investigation, the appropriateness of this assessment method as the sole means through which trainees’ understanding and teaching competence in PE was judged is somewhat questionable. It is therefore recommended that providers of ITT consider more comprehensive means through which trainee progress in PE can be monitored and evaluated beyond completion of such a task. To do so, it is pertinent to suggest that universities and schools work proactively together to develop various means through which trainees can demonstrate understanding and teaching competence in a variety of ways.

For example, those who are affirmed specialists could be expected to gain practice in teaching PE from the earliest stages of ITT, working closely with a PE mentor to reflect on and develop practice. Over time, such trainees could be asked to shadow subject leaders and to develop understanding beyond their own delivery of the PE curriculum. This group of trainees, which, like confirmed avoiders, is a relatively small proportion of the sample, expressed a very early wish to become subject leaders. This positive disposition and enthusiasm for development in the subject was welcomed by others, particularly in the school based components of training.

Through the voluntary election of further subject modules and selection by academic tutors to pursue on-going study based on audited experience, this group was enabled, by prevailing structures, in a variety of formal and less formal ways, to develop within the subject. Although a lack of structured, mentored development in PE in school was seen to limit trainees’ progress, this group of trainees holds significant potential for the development of the subject in schools. With this in mind, course providers and policy makers may wish to consider an earlier identification of specialism within primary PE and ensure that the learning and development needs of this cohort of trainees are comprehensively addressed from the outset.

The merits of attending a year 1 module with other trainees is questionable and time may be better spent in developing a more specific and focused range of knowledge and understanding of the primary PE curriculum. By being perceived as subject specialists from an early stage by others, these trainees have a need to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding to allow effective support of others and the management of PE in primary schools from an early career stage. This necessitates comprehensive coverage of all curriculum activity areas, the development of understanding of whole school planning, school policy development, advocacy for the subject and their role in supporting others. Such an enhanced specialist focus in ITT is required to combat the risk of such trainees being perceived by others, and themselves, as specialists in the absence of adequate support. As with confirmed avoiders, a more focused approach to negotiating training needs is recommended, with a particular requirement for school based experiences to be mentored by an experienced and confident teacher of primary PE. The issue of subject specific mentoring is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

Those trainees in the middle ground of the typology have been seen to show the greatest potential for dispositional change. Whilst ITT structures can be amended to enable more effective development of affirmed specialists, and to include a more realistic expectation for confirmed avoiders, it is the development of this larger group of trainees which holds the greatest potential for the development of the subject. Those with an initial ambivalence towards the subject, as well as those with a greater level of commitment, require a differently focused range of learning and development opportunities to progress towards QTS with confidence and competence in PE. The development of confidence and subject knowledge amongst initially ambivalent trainees was seen to be enabled where university based lectures were followed quickly by positive experiences in PE in school. This was, however, seen to be somewhat happenchance and reliant on the independently managed PE practice within the placement school setting. In many cases, this did not reinforce learning accrued in the university course, although, in a small number of examples, the practice of a committed class teacher was favourably viewed by trainees. Where this happened, for example for Leanne during her second year school placement, commitment to and confidence in teaching the subject was strengthened. The development of a stronger relationship between university and school based PE is therefore seen as a crucial step.

Confirmed avoiders present the greatest challenge for those seeking to develop all trainees as teachers of primary PE. Their dispositions have been shown to be highly resistant to change and the extent to which this group of trainees can demonstrate the expected standards by the end of an ITT process is questionable. Providers of ITT may therefore wish to consider the possibility of allowing confirmed avoider trainees to ‘opt out’ of training to teach PE and for this to be formally recorded through the qualification process. This does not preclude the possibility of such trainees returning to PE through professional development courses in the future, but is a candid and pragmatic step which formalises the unofficial avoidance of PE evident amongst this type of trainee. As confirmed avoiders in this study have demonstrated, there is a view amongst this group that PE is best taught by others and that they have a strong preference, borne out in practice, for concentrating on developing their teaching within a classroom environment. Instead of attempting to challenge this entrenched disposition, a more pragmatic use of time would be to support these trainees in becoming highly effective in their chosen areas and removing the teaching of PE from the possibilities of action, either temporarily or permanently.



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