At the start of every year I take my students through a unit on athletics, this year it is years 7, 8 and 9. Each year I teach the different events and associated skills and by the end students have recorded times, distances and heights for all events. Along with other observational data I have used those times, distances and heights to generate a grade. This year I have not been getting the students to measure any results. We started last week with their focus purely on developing technique.
I am employing a variety of methods to improve technique including:
1. Watching video as a class and clearly establishing what makes a good technique for each event.
2. Giving students checklists with key points so they can work in pairs and provide feedback to each other during lessons.
3. Homework tasks asking students to self reflect (through a blog post on http://middleschoolhpe.edublogs.org/) on how they are going by answering questions based around watching videos of the different events at home. A paper version for those without the Internet - yes there are still some out there - is provided.
4. iPad apps like Excelade help compare student technique to more accomplished athletes. I hope to do this but have not got to downloading video from You tube and trimming to a suitable length for use on the app - I've been doing this for my senior classes in table tennis and badminton and don't seem to be getting there for my middle school kids. Seems like their are not enough hours in the day.
5. Feedback and assessment will be based on the key technical points associated with each event covered.
I'm hoping that by not focusing on measuring results that I will engage those students who are not great at athletics. These students know they will never be able to run, jump and throw as far as others in the class. By telling them I will record results and therefore force comparison with others as a part of my assessment it immediately puts them in the headset of, 'I'm no good at this, I will fail". However if I focus on technique it can be framed as a learning experience i.e. how do we get better at this? It becomes about how can I get from my current ability level to a higher one. To me this may allow for more intrinsic motivation.
One of the interesting observations from this process so far is that not one student has asked to measure any of their results (exception is the high jump which is hard to avoid unless I can find some uprights with no measurements on them, perhaps I could cover the measurements with tape?)
I would be interested to hear what others think of this process.