In this post I will discuss my experience of implementing Kretchmar’s (2006) criterion of challenge into my teaching of a unit of tag rugby in primary physical education. As with my previous post on social interaction, this post will focus more on the teacher’s role in supporting challenge in physical education lessons.
During my teaching of the tag rugby unit I used the idea of “just-right challenges” in planning activities and designing games. I placed a large emphasis on giving the children ownership and responsibility over their learning through personal goal setting. I identified children becoming overly competitive in some activities and to counteract this I adopted the approach of personal goal setting. The use of personal goals resulted in pupils setting standards for tasks that best suited their own ability level, resulting in pupils feeling a sense of accomplishment when they took part in a task.
Student-generated data supported my reasons for choosing personal goal setting. For example, during a focus group in the third week of the unit a pupil commented on how she found some people being too competitive during tag rugby games. “… the only one thing I don’t like about it is that it’s [Tag Rugby] a bit competitive”. Personal goal setting offered a suitable solution to this problem without eliminating competition fully. The idea of competition being de-emphasised was supported in the Irish Primary PE Curriculum (1999) which stated that “unless competition is de-emphasised, those who compare less favourably will always be at risk of withdrawal” (p. 4)
As mentioned in my previous post the spirit points score sheet was used to promote social interaction among the participants. Also spirit points were used to provide appropriate levels of challenge within activities. Spirit criteria were chosen because “meaningful accomplishments are those that have criteria, rules, standards for success and criteria for excellence” (Kretchmar, 2006, p. 352). Using suggestions from the Word Flying Disc Federation (authority on Ultimate Frisbee), spirit points promoted an appropriate level of competition in games but at the same time highlighted “healthy” competition where there should be “mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play”. This was important as it demonstrated to the children that games can be joy-oriented and fun when you respect your teammates and play with the rules of games.
The above pedagogies of personal goal setting and the spirit points score sheet are two examples of how I planned for adequate levels of challenge for individual students in my teaching. I found the pedagogies supported individual difference and enabled participants to challenge themselves without putting undue pressure on teammates in a quest to “win at all costs”.