A Change in Philosophy

big gym by woodleywonderworks
big gym, a photo by woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

What is your philosophy of teaching?

I remember being asked this question in one of my Ed classes at Jamestown College. My professor told us it was important to have a philosophy, but that he guaranteed that in 5 years our philosophies would likely be very different than the one we formulated as brand new teachers.

He was right.

In one college class, a discussion was had about assessment in physical education classes. One of my peers put up her hand and stated,

“I don’t think students should be marked on skill in PE. Some kids just aren’t good at sports!”

My arm shot up and I waved my hand like a 1st grader.

“I’m not naturally good at math. Should teachers not mark me on my math skills?”

I was strongly in favour of assessing students on how many serves they could make, how many baskets scored or how fast their 100m time was. It made perfect sense to me. If kids who are good at math get an A for getting the most answers right, then students who are good at sports should get the same treatment.

Then my philosophy started to change. I met so many students who were not active at all, many who completely refused to change into proper clothes for class. After a few years, I saw that my goal had to be to get more kids participating in physical activity. I began to care less and less about how fast they ran, how many goals they scored or how far they threw. I focussed on having fun and giving them activities they could do for their whole lives. Oh I taught basic skills and game strategies but I did not assess on how well they were practised. Skill based assessment had no part in my “new” PE philosophy.

I would have to say that, again, my philosophy of assessment in PE has changed. I won’t go as far as to say it has come full circle, but I will say physical literacy has to include some mastery of locomotor and nonlocomotor skills. The look of my PE classes has begun to change. Teaching and focussing on skills has become a part of every unit. I’ve still been infusing fun in class by using more lead-up games and scaffolding of skills. Counting baskets, goals or recording speeds has no place in my PE classes and many times we don’t even keep score in our games.

A change in philosophy is inevitable in education, and the truth is, each educator will likely go through a number of changes as we learn, grow and evolve into better teachers. I hope, for my students sake, that the changes in my beliefs on assessment have and will benefit them in the future.