As I am in a new full-time consulting role, I just returned a few days ago from working quite intensively with an international school in Shanghai. I love nothing more than working with PE departments helping to make already good programs even better. I presented my 'Supercharging Student Reflection' blog post series to the teachers that I was working with to get them thinking about how they address student reflection in their program. The thing that I emphasized to these teachers was that if they choose to roll out the ideas presented in this blog post series, doing it all at once with every grade level is not the way to go as it would be too much too soon. So, bearing this in mind, I want to remind you as well, that should you try these ideas out, I highly recommend doing so on a small scale to see how it goes. There will no doubt be some struggles that you encounter along the way, so delivering these ideas on a smaller scale will allow you to more readily address potential challenges and create solutions to help overcome them.
In my last blog post (Step 3), I had a thought provoking response from a teacher in the UK whose work I highly respect. This teacher seems like a mystery man to many people on Twitter as he has yet to reveal his real identity. He is known as @ImSporticus and despite my endless attempts to get him to Skype with me, he is holding tough and won't give in.
I'll eventually crack him for sure, but regardless of whether or not this happens, I think the writing that he shares on his blog is an invaluable resource to teachers as he constantly churns out excellent content that is immediately applicable in any physical education program. I totally appreciate the feedback that he has to offer as it helps me to clarify and dig deeper into what I write.
The comment that @ImSporticus left on my last blog post ' Step#3: Identifying Struggles was this:
Hi Andy. I am hugely enjoying this insightful blog series on student reflection. Whilst I do agree with you that the affective domain is hugely important, my understanding is that all the domains of learning in PE should be of equal importance. If we are looking to build our students ability to critically reflect on their current performance, development and learning in PE, then we need to get them to look at all the domains. from there they can start to make the best choices for them to develop. Take for example the following hypothetical situations: Child A has high motivation, but always argues with the officials. Child B enjoys participating, but struggles with spatial awareness and balance. Child C has good motor control but never works to the best of their ability. They need to be able, with advice and support from us, to see their strengths and the area of improvement with out favouring one domain over the other. Keep up the excellent work. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
The different hypothetical situations that he writes about using Child A, Child B, and Child C as examples are exactly the types of students that we all have experience teaching in our PE programs. @ImSporticus goes on to write that if we are looking to build our students ability to critically reflect on their current performance, development and learning in PE, then we need to get them to look at all the domains and from there they can make the best choices in regards to their own learning.
I couldn't agree more with @ImSporticus' stance and truly believe that getting students to reflect on all domains is extremely important. I must clarify that I do get students to continually reflect on all domains throughout the year in their unit specific learning experiences. Although the overarching aim of my 'supercharging student reflection' blog post series is to emphasize goal-setting in regards to the affective domain, the students still complete mini-reflections on an ongoing basis from unit to unit during formative and summative assessment tasks. It is during this time, that they reflect upon their actual skill development and concepts that they are learning about with each passing unit.
On a much broader plane, the type of goal-setting that I describe and breakdown in this blog post series is getting students squarely focused on the affective domain and in doing so, the goals that the students create for themselves ultimately transcend any PE unit itself. Their goal is meant to be carried forward with them from unit to unit. Once both student and teacher feel as though they have made consistent and steady progress, discussions can be had that allow the student to set a new goal to work toward.
I am super lucky and fortunate to have a teaching assistant with me in my PE classes at Nanjing International School. This teaching assistant comes with the students to each PE class. Obviously having an extra pair of eyes, monitoring what is happening in my lessons is of great value.
It was necessary for me to have mini-conferences with each of my students in regards to what they felt their goal should be. Each mini-conference lasted roughly 2-3 minutes and it was during these conversations that I was able to help students narrow in and specify what their goal was. In some cases, I had to recommend a goal if the student was stuck, but most of the time, the students were able to create an authentic goal that was very much applicable to them and their learning in PE. I simply helped the students verbalize and specify what their goal was if they had trouble doing so themselves.
During mini-conference time, I had stations set up for my students to rotate through. This allowed me to pull them over, one by one, to have a conversation with them regarding their goal. The teaching assistant took the lead during this time which freed me up to conference with each student. I no doubt was still very aware of what was going on as the students rotated through each station, but was also present for each student during the goal-setting discussions.
As my school was not one-to-one laptops or iPads, using technology to get students reflecting on these goals was not possible for me, so I had to resort to old school pencil and paper. In helping students select their goals, I was also able to give them specific strategies to put into practice as they worked toward improving upon their goal. I recorded each student's goal, as well as the strategies to be put into practice when trying to meet this goal. Their goal and strategies were recorded on an A3-sized piece of paper along with several boxes that the students could write reflections in.
In the example below, you can see the goal that Alex had come up with for himself. I digitally saved each student's goal and strategies, so that if they filled up the reflection sheet, I could go into my class folder to print off another one for them. As for Alex, the goal he had set for himself was spot on. His anger and frustration at times really held him back from experiencing PE to the fullest, so he knew that this was an area that he had to work on improving over time.
The reality is that many teachers reading my 'supercharging student reflection' blog post series do not have teaching assistants. Mini-conferences are quite important in the process of setting up authentic goals with your students, so my recommendation is that if you do not have a teaching assistant, that you hit up a colleague to help supervise when you are meeting with students individually. Better yet, go straight to the top and explain the goal-setting process to one of your administrators. Put some heat on them to come in and supervise. The initiative that you are taking with setting up an environment of authentic goal-setting is worth a look from your administrator, so that they can see firsthand the great learning environment being set up up in PE.
If you have great access to technology, there are some excellent tools that can be used to digitally record student reflections in regards to their goals. The first thing that comes to mind is setting up a Padlet for each student. Padlet is more or less an online bulletin board that is excellent for capturing each student's thoughts and ideas. As well, photos and videos can be uploaded directly on to their board. I began tinkering with Padlet a bit in my teaching last school year.
I created a quick little example of what Padlet would look like if you were to use if for student goal-setting and reflective writing. If you are a tech savvy teacher, I'm sure that you could come up with a myriad of ways to digitally capture student reflections, but just wanted to give you a glimpse into what Padlet would look like. As you can see below, the students could simply add their own reflections throughout the term or semester.
In concluding Step 4 of my 'supercharging student reflection, blog post series, I want to emphasize that this step is all about creating an environment that allows students to set their own authentic goals in PE. Step 3 played a big part in allowing them time to truly think about potential obstacles, struggles, and challenges that they face in PE while Step 4 was about setting the actual goal itself. If you are to try these ideas out, you will also need to think about the best way for students to actually begin to reflect on their learning. In my case it was pencil and paper, but should your technological environment allow you to use digital tools to roll out student reflection, great!
I'll have Step 5 of this blog post series out within a couple of days. Until then HAPPY Teaching (and planning)!