Empowering Pre-Service Physical Educators through the Planning and Instruction of a Novel Activity Unit

By Constantinou, Phoebe | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, January-February 2011 | Go to article overview

Empowering Pre-Service Physical Educators through the Planning and Instruction of a Novel Activity Unit


Constantinou, Phoebe, Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


Pedagogical content knowledge, especially at the undergraduate level, is vital to the development of competent physical education teachers. Thus, physical education teacher education (PETE) programs provide opportunities for developing and improving pedagogical skills. Instructional experiences commonly include peer teaching, field-based observations, and pre-student teaching practicum experiences (Ayers & Housner, 2008; Bahneman, 1996; Strand, 1992). Traditionally, method courses in PETE programs require students to develop unit plans and lessons, peer teach, and reflect on their teaching skills. Advanced physical education methods courses typically focus on refining lesson-planning skills, exploring curriculum models (Corbin & Lindsay, 1990; Dyson, 1995; Griffin, Mitchell, & Oslin, 1997; Hellison, 2003; Lund & Tannehill, 2005; Placek, 1992; Siedentop, 1994), and practicing teaching strategies and styles (Mosston & Ashworth, 1986; Siedentop, 1994). Furthermore, these courses usually aim to enhance prospective teachers' self-reflection capabilities.

This article describes the educational potential and benefits of using novel activity units to hone pre-service physical educators' teaching competencies during the pre-implementation, implementation, and post implementation phases of the teaching process. This approach has two premises: (I) learning does not occur automatically, but requires the active involvement of the learner (Butler, 1997; Dewey, 1934) and (2) learners need to acquire high levels of self-efficacy/confidence (Bandura, 1986, 1997). From this point of view, an educator's goal is not to directly influence student learning but to create an environment that encourages students to think and act as independent learners (Butler, 1997; Dewey, 1934). This, in turn, impacts learning (Doyle, 1977; Lee & Solmon, 1992; Shuell, 1986) and self-efficacy/confidence levels (Bandura, 1986, 1997).

Pre-Implementation Phase: Developing a Unit Plan for an Unfamiliar Activity

During this phase of the teaching process, PETE students learn to be proactive by planning and organizing all components and details of the lesson plan. PETE students also develop their research skills: To create developmentally appropriate lesson plans, students must discover the content knowledge, develop task progressions, and learn to sequence activities. Moreover, developing unit plans on novel activities requires PETE students to take risks, to step outside their comfort zone to explore and discover the benefits and values of an unfamiliar activity. Examples of unfamiliar activities include international games such as Korfball, Sepak Takraw, and Tchouekball; new games such as Socci; and lifestyle activities such as yoga, tai chi, outdoor pursuits, and aquatics. The point of this approach is to create authentic opportunities for PETE students to take control of their learning.

Background information

PETE students are put in small groups of no more than four, and are assigned a novel activity around which to create a unit plan. The overall unit plan consists of 12 lessons, the accompanying block plan, gymnasium rules, protocols, behavior policy, and grading procedures. Each PETE student must individually create eight of the 12 lessons. The other four lessons can be borrowed from other peers in the group. Students must fit borrowed lessons into the lesson sequence of their unit plan. Requiring a mix of group and individual work gives PETE students opportunities to cooperate and collaborate, while also providing room for individual creativity.

Educational Potential and Benefits

Risk-taking skills and comfort zone. The unit plan assignment gives PETE students a unique and powerful learning experience, as it puts all of them at the same starting point and forces them to work outside their comfort zone during all phases of the teaching process. Each student starts off knowing absolutely nothing about the activity.

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