By Ciara Griffin
In this post I will discuss how I used Kretchmar’s (2006) criterion of social interaction as a guiding idea during the course of planning, teaching, and assessing a tag rugby unit for primary school students as part of my Master’s thesis research. This post will focus more on my role as a teacher in supporting social interaction in physical education lessons.
I am a new teacher and always did well in school PE and sport. These experiences gave me certain understandings of what PE could or should be. Prior to my use of Kretchmar’s criteria I saw a successful lesson in terms of children learning and understanding skills and concepts. Now I view a lesson as successful when children are laughing, playing with their friends, learning new skills (though the skills do not need to be perfected), and when the children are appropriately challenged. Kretchmar’s criteria encouraged me to adopt pedagogies into my practice that I may have otherwise overlooked. For example I used Andy Vasily’s ideas about ‘learning with the head, the heart and hands’ (HHH). I also used a “spirit points” score sheet to encourage discussion and social interaction among pupils – some readers might have seen spirit points being used in Ultimate Frisbee leagues, for example. Both of these strategies supported me in helping my lessons become more pupil-focused, while encouraging group reflection and peer discussion.
Learning with the HHH encouraged pupils to reflect on their progress in terms of personal, emotional and skill development. Learning with the HHH method changed my mindset from viewing pupils’ development solely in terms of skill execution (the hands), to viewing pupils’ individual, personal (head) and inter-personal (heart) development as positive and important outcomes of participation. As a result of using pedagogies that were more pupil-focused and which prioritized social interaction, competition was deemphasised and intrinsic motivation was encouraged. For example, during the fourth week of focusing on enacting pedagogies that promote meaningful participation, I wrote: “I made it very clear that you don’t always have to score the most tries or get the most tags to be the best and have fun at tag rugby”. This idea of not having to score the most tries was made clear to the pupils through our class discussions at the beginning of the lesson where we discussed the importance of participation and de-emphasised competition. I actively promoted the importance of meaningful participation over competition through constant discussion and questioning with the children, as well as providing positive feedback to children, where I highlighted areas such as peer praise, inclusion and skill improvement.
As said in the previous post ‘meaningful social interactions should be intentionally planned for…’ thus the role of the teacher in providing for these meaningful social interactions is vital. Without due planning and careful consideration of the group dynamics, the opportunity for optimising the value of Kretchmar’s (2006) framework in a lesson may be lost.