The following guest blog is from our series highlighting chapters from our recently published book Meaningful Physical Education: An Approach for Teaching and Learning.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post! We hope that you are choosing to read this piece as meaningful continued professional development (CPD) (Armour, Quennerstedt, Chambers, & Makopoulo, 2017). Although our chapter in the Meaningful Physical Education book was focused on pre-service teachers, it was really about professional development: “…for what is teacher education other than the development of professionals” (p. 88)? As such, this post focuses on our own professional development in relation to Meaningful PE. Throughout the production of the book and since its release, our use and understanding of the approach has continued to evolve. We ended the chapter with four thoughts on how we planned to optimize our understanding and implementation in the future. Well, it’s now the future so we figured it was time for an update! 😉
1. We want to move away from a reliance on the features of meaningful experiences to embrace personal constructions of meaningfulness.
Nothing is inherently meaningful, as the same experience may be meaningful or meaningless to different individuals (Metheny, 1968). The distinction lies in our interest in the experience (Metheny, 1968). As professionals, in order to teach PE with the goal of meaningful learning, we need to first begin to know our students and understand their experiences with PE and movement experience in general. Prior to beginning PE lessons, it is well worth creating the space and time for students to articulate movement experiences that get them excited and those that are fear or anxiety-inducing. These conversations will further shape our understanding of Meaningful PE for the students we work and play with.
2. We seek to focus on experiences (Dewey, 1938) while harnessing the power of reflection.
Opportunities to assess learning through a meaningful lens may require less consideration of things like standardized fitness testing (e.g. BEEP test) and more consideration of the feeling of accomplishment when a goal is set and achieved. PE journals are a wonderful reflective tool to use as communication between teachers and students as well as an assessment opportunity for meaningful learning. Guiding questions could include: ‘One thing I learned or improved upon during this unit was…’; ‘How can you use something you learned during the unit, outside of class?’; and/or ‘Describe an experience during the unit that was more meaningful or less meaningful for you and explain why’. The identification of both educative and mis-educative (Dewey, 1938) experiences through reflective practice gives students the autonomy and wisdom to pursue movement activities that bring them joy and delight (Kretchmar, 2008).
3. We want to make Meaningful PE more explicit while also creating space for the implicit emergence of meaningfulness.
As developing professionals, we can all benefit from making Meaningful PE more explicit. This can included developing a shared vocabulary, planning reflection time and using conversations with students to inspire lesson planning and assessment. For example, if students express that PE is meaningful to them when they feel their voices have been heard; we could co-create assessments and ensure that the learning activities are reflective of student ideas and experiences. However, we also have to leave space for meaningfulness to emerge organically. Being open to creativity and imagination – creating rich learning opportunities for students to explore and play in – enables personal connection, choice and freedom to define meaningfulness for themselves.
4. We want to develop implementation strategies for Meaningful PE that are contextual and student focused.
As professionals, our commitment to growth (Dewey, 1938) can be evidenced in the way we plan and implement MPE concepts with our students and in our reflexive practice afterwards. Reflexive activities may include maintaining an MPE teaching journal and/or becoming a member of a community of practice (CoP) (Parker & Patton, 2017). These processes keep us accountable and help to ensure that we continue to focus on OUR students and OUR contexts. The focus of a Meaningful PE CoP would be to discuss, develop, implement and evaluate teaching strategies within a variety of contexts – together – with the goal of providing all learners with educative experiences.
Growth, by its very nature, cannot be static. Engaging in reflective practice – continuously learning and adapting – allows professionals to stay current and goes a long way in ensuring the creation and support of Meaningful PE for our students.
Douglas Gleddie is Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, Canada. He teaches physical education curriculum and pedagogy to undergraduate students. He also teaches graduate courses in health and physical education, reflective practice, physical literacy and research methods.
Jodi Harding-Kuriger is a health and physical educator for the joy and love of movement. She is dedicated to lifelong learning through the University of Alberta, Canada, and HPEC.
Armour, K., Quennerstedt, M., Chambers, F., & Makopoulo, K. (2017). What is ‘effective’ CPD for contemporary physical education teachers? A Deweyan framework. Sport, Education and Society, 22, 799–811.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience in education. New York, NY: Collier MacMillan Publishers.
Kretchmar, R. S. (2008). The increasing utility of elementary school physical edu- cation: A mixed blessing and unique challenge. The Elementary School Journal, 108(3), 161–170.
Metheny, E. (1968). Movement and meaning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Patton, K., & Parker, M. (2017). Teacher education communities of practice: More than a culture of collaboration. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 351-360.