Teaching is full of challenges

By | March 11, 2019

Teaching is full of challenges. Teaching Physical Education (PE) is full of challenges that only other Physical Education teachers understand. One of the biggest challenges that PE teachers face is an issue of respect. Lack of respect may come from students, parents, the general public, or even other teachers. Those in the community who believe PE is not a “real” class is a very real issue. The lack of respect given to the field of Physical Education as a whole, and to PE teachers is a problem that needs to be addressed; and changed.

The lack of accountability is one factor that limits the respect given to Physical Education. Parents, community members, and other teachers are often unaware of what happens in a quality Physical Education class. Physical Education teachers need to aggressively promote what is happening in their class, and more importantly, be able to demonstrate proof of student learning.

In reality, a PE teachers’ ability to demonstrate what students are learning in PE class is what separates PE class from other core subjects. Math teachers can easily turn to test data, science teachers can turn to lab work, and literacy teachers can turn to book reports. Oftentimes PE teachers cannot turn to anything, or attempt to use insufficient data in an attempt to be on a level playing field.

The question then becomes; to gain respect, what can PE teachers do to demonstrate proof of learning?

Physical Education classes are generally performance based, with assessment that is typically very subjective. Teachers often grasp at things to grade, simply to get a grade into the report card, they unfortunately grade behavior, fitness testing, or even dressing out.  

While culture’s views are swinging in the favor of Physical Education, PE teachers need to be aggressive in both their promotion of, and advocacy for quality Physical Education. One way to do this is to move away from the old methods of assessment in PE and move toward a more student focused, authentic assessment system. The shift to a more objective assessment system, which authentically demonstrates what students are learning, while still keeping activity time high is both difficult and stressful for many PE teachers.

There are a number of pieces of technology that can aid teachers and allow students to demonstrate proof of learning. Seesaw and Google Classroom are both free tools that give PE teachers the ability to assess and give feedback to students quickly and easily.

Seesaw

Seesaw can be accessed via an app or a web-based platform. Seesaw is a student focused Learning Management System which easily integrates audio and video into assessments allowing students to efficiently demonstrate proof of learning in an authentic way. Seesaw also allows for parent notification and feedback, giving teachers the ability to easily show parents exactly what is happening in the classroom on a regular basis. Student work is neatly organized to create a portfolio with proof of individual student learning housed inside.

There are several reasons why using Seesaw makes sense in a Physical Education setting.

  1. It’s easy. Physical Education teachers are strapped for time. There is a constant battle to incorporate activity time with assessment, and often individual assessment gets ignored in favor of group assessment. Students crave and need individual feedback and assessment. Seesaw allows a teacher to collect information from all students in the class quickly and efficiently.
  2. It’s authentic. Assessment is difficult in PE. Both the question of what to assess and how to assess spawn passionate discussions among PE teachers. The problem of collecting authentic information from students is very real. The amount of time needed to authentically collect information from all students can be overwhelming. Seesaw allows students to self record themselves doing a variety of tasks. From skill analysis to personal reflections, Seesaw allows for both video and audio to give students an avenue to demonstrate proof of learning within an active authentic environment.
  3. It makes connections. Parents need to know what is happening in PE class. The problem is, parents think they know what is happening in PE class based on their personal experience. Often what is happening in a PE class now, looks very different from what happened many years ago. From an advocacy standpoint, demonstrating the learning that happens in a PE class is paramount.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is an expert on data. Teachers that want to collect data, analyse data, or share data should be using Google Classroom. Like Seesaw, there are several reasons why using Google Classroom in a PE setting makes sense.

  1. Data. Coupled with other G-suite tools such as Google Forms, Google Classroom is a powerful tool in collecting data. PE teachers can create a simple Google Form to assess the class’ learning targets, and insert the form into Google Classroom. After students complete the form, the teacher is left with data showing how well students understood the learning targets of the class.
  2. Feedback. Google Forms give students feedback immediately. After taking the Google Form assessment, students are able to see what they understood or did not understand. With PE teachers having large numbers of students to teach, having a tool like Google Forms give individual feedback is a great aid to teaching.
  3. Organization. All data that gets collected is neatly stored in spreadsheets where data can be manipulated and analyzed. Folders within Google Drive are created and housed for later use.

Clearly these are just technology tools, and will not replace the more important face-to-face, personal interactions and feedback that a Physical Education teacher gives. These tools simply make it easier for students on a mass scale to demonstrate what they have learned during their time in PE class. While these two tools are great, they are not the only tools that can be used within a quality Physical Education program. PE teachers should find what works best for them as a teacher and allows students to demonstrate proof of learning.

Of course, demonstrating proof of learning is not just to advocate for quality physical education, it is quality Physical Education. Setting up learning targets for students to meet, and then allowing students to prove they have met those learning targets is the basis for any quality class, whether that be physical education or any other discipline. Having students objectively understand what they are supposed to be learning and then having the opportunity to prove that they have successfully learned it, is what learning is all about. Technology, and specifically the tools mentioned above give Physical Education teachers the ability to assess student learning in a way never before possible.

Matt Guth
Brookwood Middle School
Genoa City, WI
@peguth
matt.guth@gcj2.k12.wi.us

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