«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
In practical terms, this raises significant questions regarding how such decisions are made, by whom, and at what stage of the ITT process. However, taking this step would formalise something that is currently happening unofficially and would mean recognising that becoming an effective teacher of PE is not within all trainees’ immediate possibilities of action. The number of confirmed avoiders within the case study institution was found to be relatively small (5 out of the 24 trainees who took part in qualitative interviews were identified within this type) and this degree of potential opting out is suggested only for this strongly disposed group. Questions are also raised regarding the training of primary teachers in other curriculum subjects, particularly those where similar issues regarding teacher confidence prevail. The management of trainees’ development in such a complex and chaotic ITT context would be highly problematic and a recommendation to narrow trainees’ exposure to various aspects of the curriculum could not easily apply beyond PE. However, it can be argued that PE, taught in a range of environments outside the classroom, has a heightened level of complexity and class management demands related to issues of safety. This adds a particular level of concern regarding the current requirement that all trainees will become qualified to teach PE and strengthens the recommendation for selective opting out from the subject.
Whilst the QTS standards pertaining to trainees in this investigation offer some flexibility through advocating support from an experienced colleges where necessary, proposed new teachers’ standards (DfE, 2012), due for introduction from September 2012, suggest that less
flexibility will be available. The new standards:
Will apply to: trainees working towards QTS; all teachers completing their statutory induction period; and those covered by the new performance appraisal arrangements (DfE, 2012, p.1).
The new standards define a minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded QTS. In Standard 3, all teachers (including those achieving QTS)
will be expected to:
Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.
o have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas, foster and maintain pupils’ interest in the subject, and address misunderstandings (DfE, 2012, p.7).
Without the flexibility afforded by the 2002 standard, the extent to which ‘good subject and curriculum knowledge’ is attainable by all trainees in this investigation is questionable. The introduction of a new standard also raises questions regarding the process through which ‘good subject knowledge’ will be assessed in the light of the paucity of subject mentoring experienced by trainees in the school context and the lack of on-going subject study in the university context.
It is therefore recommended that providers of ITT consider how different levels of expectation regarding trainees’ progress towards the standard are supported, monitored and assessed. The methods used should be underpinned with a heightened commitment to checking trainee progress and providing support, in different ways, where this is necessary. The structures of university and school based provision should therefore be strengthened to include means through which for all trainees’ practice in PE can be more closely monitored, and supported.
As discussed in recommendation 1, trainee reflection can be used as a starting point for planning development opportunities with the support of a mentor in this process.
Recommendation 3: Strengthen the relationship between university and school based elements of primary PEITT To effect positive changes to the relationship between university and school based elements of primary PEITT, a much closer integration of university and school based experiences is required, whilst simultaneously acknowledging and better supporting the potential for school based professionals to contribute towards trainee development in PE. School staff, with roles as mentors for primary trainees, should be more aware of the nature and content of the university based PE curriculum and the importance of their role in modelling expected practice. Where mentors are themselves negatively disposed towards PE then a role in coordinating and organising positive experiences for trainees in PE, using the expertise of colleagues, would be appropriate. Course providers may wish to consider approaches which result in university and school-based staff working more closely together, sharing practice, ideas and roles. Examples of such activity would include university lectures being delivered in school settings, trainees gaining experience through working with small groups of children in PE, and school based staff delivering lectures in university. Whilst such approaches are conceivable within present day ITT structures, it is also possible that a new impetus for such developments could be provided through government led changes to ITT discussed in chapter
3. The Government’s implementation plan for the reform of ITT states that:
The ITT strategy set out the evidence for a strong link between the quality of teacher training and high quality school-based activities based on demonstration and peer review. The strategy also argued that, as employers of newly qualified teachers, schools have a critical interest in initial teacher training, and should play a greater role in leading the recruitment, selection and training of teachers.
We put forward proposals to:
a) make it easier for schools to lead teacher training;
b) encourage more universities to follow the example of the integrated working of the best university-school partnerships;
c) focus ITT on the skills and knowledge that trainees will need most once they are working in the classroom as qualified teachers (DfE, 2011c, p. 11).
The government proposals suggest that an increase in school based practice in ITT will be a positive development, yet the results of this research suggest that school based experiences in primary PE are highly problematic. By creating further opportunity for trainees to be exposed to negative experiences, the development of trainees as teachers of primary PE may be further constrained. However, the development of integrated working between universities and schools in primary PE, as part of a new model of university and school partnership may provide an impetus for positive development. If new partnerships can create regular and wellsupported opportunities for trainee observation, reflection and practice, then a strengthened university-school partnership may hold significant potential in this regard. The development of PE specific mentoring in the primary school context should therefore be a particular focus for ITT providers, supported through the development and delivery of professional development courses and resources, and integrated within the partnership agreements between schools and universities. Such practical steps would serve to provide a heightened and supported focus on the subject during school based experiences, and facilitate on-going trainee reflection and development. The development of mentors in primary PE can also make use of the wider workforce currently deployed within the subject area as a consequence of the ‘remodelled workforce agenda’ described in chapter 3. A new cohort of PE mentors need not be limited to class teachers, but could include visiting specialists, link teachers (where these have been retained by head teachers), university tutors, and coaches, in addition to class teachers. Course providers are also encouraged to consider how an appropriate matching of mentors with trainees could be facilitated; examples provided in chapter 7 have demonstrated the powerful impact of trainees being matched with similarly disposed class teachers. The development of mentors through professional development courses also provides scope for practitioners to update their own knowledge and practice and could therefore be a vehicle through which universities and schools work in an improved partnership to develop the quality of primary PE. The flexibility of school staffing provided by the remodelled workforce agenda, together with the forthcoming new partnerships between university and schools, therefore create a context within which greater creativity can be used to ensure that professional support can be provided during school based experiences.
However, it should also be noted that the low status of PE experienced by trainees, both in schools and within the ITT curriculum, may make this proposed heightened level of subject focus somewhat difficult to achieve. Trainees have experienced first-hand the emphasis within the curriculum afforded to English and mathematics and the extent to which a variety of structures exert control over day to day teaching practice in this regard. The national strategies, QTS standards, the national curriculum and Ofsted inspection frameworks can be seen as contributory elements of a regulatory framework within which PE plays a negligible role. This mode of regulation, highlighted in chapter 2 as ‘performativity’, is said to favour those subjects which are perceived to contribute to increasing economic competitiveness through the development of a high-skills, knowledge-based economy and the improvement of levels of literacy and numeracy (Wood, 2004). It is pertinent, therefore, to further consider the role of PE within the primary curriculum and to advocate the case for a heightened status of PE to politicians and policy makers. Without this, it is difficult to conceive the wholesale adoption of the recommendations of this chapter.
Recommendation 4: Further develop understanding regarding the nature and content of primary PE
The proposed new teaching standards make reference to the need for all teachers to:
Demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship (DfE, 2012, p.7).
ITT providers may therefore wish to consider how a heightened awareness of contemporary developments in PE can be best communicated to trainees and school based staff. Trainees in this investigation were regularly seen to base their own nascent practice on prior experiences, often centred on memories of negative experiences in a sports context. Such apparent conflation of PE and sport in the minds of trainees results in problems that could be mitigated by a clearer articulation and definition of the nature and importance of PE in the primary age phase. The conflation of PE and sport in the minds of trainees and within aspects of the ITT structure, such as the PE subject audit (appendix 13), has been seen to reinforce a view amongst some trainees that teaching of PE is best carried out by others. The subject audit did little to alter such perceptions. However, ambivalent class teachers have been seen to be able to understand the need for children to be physically active and to appreciate that learning outcomes in PE are not confined to sports skill development. With a clearer articulation of the relevance and nature of PE in the primary curriculum and experience of observing and sharing high quality provision in school, ambivalent trainees were, on occasions, able to gain in confidence. University based PE courses were enjoyed by trainees and included some opportunity to consider the nature, content and rationale of the subject in primary schools.
However, the ideas presented in university appear to have contrasted with provision seen in schools, which largely undermined any positive development or shifts in disposition seen in university. It is relevant to note on-going efforts to re-define the nature and approach to the teaching of primary PE in this regard, particularly those which place an emphasis on the development of a range of movement competencies which can later be applied to a variety of activities, including sport. This is a marked shift away from the activity based content of the prevailing NC and is an approach that has been seen in the work of both theorists (for example, Jess, 2012) and providers of CPD, such as the Youth Sport Trust (YST). Their ‘Start
to Move: developing physical literacy’ project aims to:
transform the way PE is taught to 4–7 year olds by equipping teachers with the expertise and confidence to provide children with a movement foundation for lifelong participation in physical activity. The Start to Move approach is all about children learning the ABCs of movement (YST, 2012a).
In addition, the YST Top Sport programme supports the delivery of PE and sport in primary
1. Developing young people's physical and social skill development
2. Improving young people's wider learning skills, such as confidence and managing their emotions
3. Increasing young people's understanding of their health and well-being (YST, 2012b).
The rationales for each YST course are clearly described and provide scope through which the teaching workforce may be encouraged to develop the subject in schools. Whilst such innovations are laudable, the extent to which impact has been seen in schools or within the development of trainee teachers remains to be seen. The exploration of such curriculum innovations should not be confined to either the university or school setting, however, and ways through which schools and those who interact with trainees during ITT can engage with such developments simultaneously need to be more readily identified. As with the other recommendations made here, subject development cannot take place solely in the university or school setting, but should be informed by theoretical deliberation and practical application in each context.
Limitations and scope of this research Although the research provided a detailed analysis of a range of phenomena related to primary PEITT, a number of limitations can be identified. Whilst serving to clarify the claims being made, the limitations also provide scope for future investigations to elucidate, confirm or contradict the findings presented in this thesis. The first limitation relates to the research context because the investigation centred on one university based, undergraduate ITT course.