Reframing the way that Health-Related Fitness is delivered to students
I've thought long and hard about the purpose of health-related fitness as part of a physical education program. In reflecting on this purpose, I have struggled to make sense of what is most important for young people to understand, to know, and to be able to demonstrate in relation to the unit itself. There are many conflicting views about the purpose of health-related fitness thrown around daily by teachers and researchers alike. The reality is that there are many different perspectives, but at the end of the day, the biggest consideration that is often overlooked is what do the students actually think about health-related fitness and how it applies to their daily lives.
Teachers and researchers can stick to their guns in regards to what they feel is best for kids to know, understand, and demonstrate, but to what extent do we balance the actual needs and wants of the students, especially in regards to the context of their lives and their realities?
Bearing this in mind, I am bringing their voice much more into the process of designing the units that I teach in PE. This is not simply about offering free willing voice and choice, but hopefully has much more meaning and relevance to the way that I teach and the way in which students will learn.
I'm convinced that pre-unit interviews with students is the way to go. In my opinion, it is an imperative part of the teaching and learning process to help dig into their thoughts and beliefs in order to reveal where they are at in regards to their understanding of what physical activity, sport, and personal fitness/health truly means to them in relation to the unit that they are about to embark on in their PE classes.
I have found that conducting these pre-unit interviews to be an extremely valuable investment of time and energy as it reveals so much. It also allows me to share with them important learning intentions and outcomes for the unit so that they understand that there are constraints that we must work within. Blanket free choice won't work. The non-negotiables of the unit are established right away in order to begin the unpacking process of learning about each of the important outcomes being focused on.
Pre-Unit Health Related Fitness Interviews
I took the time last week to interview the class about their experiences with their last Health-Related Fitness unit. As I am teaching them for the first time, it is particularly important to have these conversations with them. Therefore, I structured the interview around 5 essential questions that I felt were critical to gain insight into:
1. On a scale from 1-10, how much did you enjoy fitness testing last unit?
2. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you want to do fitness testing again?
3. What are the 3 biggest things you learned in the Health-Related Fitness unit?
4. If you were the PE teacher, what are 2 things that you would do to make this unit more fun?
5. What is most important to you about this unit?
The students were then able to share their thoughts using small sticky notes. This entire process took between 10-15 minutes. A great investment of time as many things I didn't expect were revealed. Although fitness testing was mandatory last unit, I am not making them do fitness testing. However, for the ones who enjoyed it, I will set these tests up for them.
From the photo above, it looks as though the students didn't share any responses to question 4. I actually removed all of their responses to question#4 in order to create a second visual. I was quite surprised at all of their responses to question#4 and had to address their thoughts. See poster below which shares their ideas. I introduced the visual below to them to let them know I had listened to them and fully intend to take these suggestions into account when designing the unit.
The pre-unit interview phase then allowed me to introduce the important learning outcomes to the students which I was able to do in the first class of the Health-Related Fitness unit. In making these outcomes clear and explicit from the start of the unit, the students are very aware of important expectations which will guide their learning and be unpacked over the next several weeks. The learning outcomes can be seen in the visual below.
So, this is the start of our unit and how we began the entire process with pre-unit interviews in order to help me better design relevant and meaningful teaching and learning. In the next blog post, I'll share the next steps that I have carefully thought through and planned to take this unit one step further. Thanks for reading.
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KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.