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Why public Primary schools are desperate for specialised PE teachers March 20, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics, Primary Education.
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from Christina Curry

In her first post, Christina Curry emphasises the importance of physical education for childrens’ health and the difficulties that Primary school teachers often face in teaching this curriculum area. She argues that the provision of specialist PE teachers in these schools offers a solution to this problem.

In a society that is facing serious health issues, the importance of physical education (PE) in our Public primary schools is often neglected.

Children need the value of lifelong physical activity to be instilled in them from a young age. In some cases this is achieved through family, but more often it relies on the school to ensure PE is embedded in their lives and that the children’s experiences with PE are positive and worthwhile.

Physical education is mandated to make up 6-10% of curriculum time, but this time allocation is rarely met. Research has uncovered a range of barriers which impact on the amount and quality of PE and sporting programs within primary schools. These barriers exist mainly because the delivery of PE usually relies on classroom teachers, who already have many other pressures placed upon them.  With the introduction of the My School website, a heavy emphasis has been placed on improving numeracy and literacy, and this pressure will continue to intensify as teachers strive to meet the needs of the new National curriculum. With this mounting pressure, it is common for a lesser focus to be placed on PE. Researchers have found that Primary teachers often omit the mandatory PE hours from their week as a result of feeling pressured by the extent of the curriculum and their lack of experience and ability to teach the practical component of the PDHPE syllabus. A specialist PE teacher would be able to ensure that the importance of PE is not overwhelmed by these other emphases.

In a recent study of primary teachers, it was found that many were unable to fit in the mandatory hours across all subject areas, with most participants admitting that PE was the first to suffer (Morgan & Hansen, 2008:511). There is a range of other factors impacting on our teachers and include their lack of confidence to teach PE, a lack of time, poor facilities, inadequate resources and low levels of interest in PE in general. The limited sporting resources available in primary schools, coupled with the lack of expertise to develop and execute lessons, continue to be an ongoing concern. On average, primary teachers complete about 10 hours of PE training in their initial teacher training. Many teachers are relying on their own school experiences with PE and sport, hence their own teaching of PE is a reflection of their memories, both good and bad, rather than from the knowledge gained in professional pre-service training (Carney & Chedzoy, 1998; Morgan & Bourke, 2008). Specialised PE teachers complete four years of training to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to provide our children with quality PE.

Teachers have often struggled with the concepts of the traditional PE approach which is very skill based. The lack of confidence they feel in teaching skills and their feelings of inadequacy with their own physical prowess impact on their ability to provide quality teaching in this area. However, with the introduction of contemporary approaches to teaching in PE, such as Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and Game Sense (GS), we now have an approach which is more enjoyable for both teachers and students and one that meets the standards of the quality teaching and learning framework. Specialised PE teachers are confident and passionate about PE and continue to stay informed of new trends as they only need to focus on this one speciality area.

When considering cost implications, a specialised PE teacher could be shared among 2-3 schools over the week, as one hour per week of PE is sufficient for each K-6 class.

It is imperative that our children are encouraged to participate in physical activity, and that these experiences lead to a lifelong involvement in physical activity.  Instilling positive experiences through physical education in primary schools would contribute to reducing many of the health issues currently faced in our society.

Surely we are justified in providing quality education in PE through the use of specialised PE teachers.

References:  Carney, C., & Chedzoy, S. (1998). Primary Student Teacher Prior Experiences and Their Relationship to Estimated Competence to Teach the National Curriculum for Physical Education. Sport, Education and Society, 3(1), 19 – 36.  Morgan, P. J., & Hansen, V. (2008). Classroom teachers’ perceptions of the impact of barriers to teaching physical education on the quality of physical education programs. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(4), 506 -16.  Morgan, P., & Bourke, S. (2008). Non-specialist teachers’ confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences in PE. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 13(1), 1 – 29.

Christina Curry is a Lecturer in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She teaches and researches in PDHPE curriculum and pedagogy in both primary and secondary school settings.

Is integrating technology into learning in the school classroom a ‘wicked’ problem? March 6, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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From Jane Hunter

In this post Jane Hunter discusses TPACK, a framework which helps to explain how teachers can engage with technology in their classrooms in ways that promote ‘deep’ student learning.

It was more than 37 years ago when Rittel & Weber (1973) first argued that technology knowledge, pedagogy and content knowledge are three parts of a complex or ‘wicked problem’. Their argument built on their belief that wicked problems always occur in social contexts, in contrast to ‘tame’ problems (such as those in maths or chess, for example). In their notion of ‘wickedness’, these problems are incomplete, contradictory and have changing requirements.

Perhaps what is required is a way to confront this complexity around technology integration in a problem-seeking, problem solving manner by achieving a satisfactory solution that is ‘good enough’ given the circumstances. Teachers who reach satisfactory solutions when integrating technology in teaching are mindful of this. However, it is their knowledge of technology, pedagogy and content which leads to powerful forms of student learning that exceed ‘good enough’ solutions.

The three components technology, pedagogy and content are taken up in a relatively new framework or theoretical model … TPACK. Have you heard of it? At present it’s being talked about, referred to, further developed, and used to inform professional teaching standards in many national and international education contexts. At the Australian Academic Research in Education (AARE) Conference in Melbourne in early December 2010, and then at the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ACSILITE) Conference a week later, a series of paper presentations referenced this model in a range of new studies. Technological pedagogical and content knowledge or TPACK combines the ‘knowledge components’ of pedagogy, content and technology – it was developed by Mishra & Koehler (2006). The framework builds on well-known work of Shulman (1986, 1987) and is a useful lens to build understanding of how teachers integrate technology into learning. TPACK is not a completely new approach, and other education scholars have argued that knowledge about technology is not context-free, and that good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to pedagogy and content.

In brief, the seven components in the TPACK framework are: i) Content knowledge (CK) – this is knowledge of the actual subject matter that is to be learned or taught. ii) Pedagogical knowledge (PK) – this is deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning, and encompasses educational purposes, values and aims. iii) Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) – this is similar to Shulman’s idea of pedagogy that is applicable to the teaching of specific content. It refers to the core business of teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment and reporting, and the conditions that promote learning and the links between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. The link below opens up a diagram of the TPACK framework.

Diagram of TPACK framework

iv) Technology knowledge (TK) – this refers to a fluency in information technology, and goes beyond computer literacy to when a teacher understands when technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal. v) Technological content knowledge (TCK) – this has a deep historical relationship which explains content knowledge and the development of new technologies that enable the manipulation of data in novel and successful ways. vi)Technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) – this is an understanding of how teaching and learning changes when particular technologies are used. vii) Technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) – this is an understanding that emerges from an interaction of content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge. It is truly meaningful and deeply skilled teaching with technology (see full detail in Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p.13-20).

In discussing TPACK, conceptual aspects represent ‘a class of knowledge’ that is central to teachers’ work with technology. This knowledge would not typically be held by technologically proficient subject matter experts, or by technologists who know little of the subject or of pedagogy, or by teachers who know little of that subject or about technology. What researchers like Mishra & Koehler (2006) argue is that there is no single technological solution that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching. What TPACK does is allow a teasing apart of key issues that are necessary for conceptualizing the integration of technology in learning. Developing a type of TPACK ‘disposition’ or ‘awareness’ in all teachers should be a critical goal of teacher preparation, and teacher professional learning for effective technology integration into teaching and learning in schools. Key parts of a solution to the ‘wicked problem’?


American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed) (2008) Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators. New York: Routledge. Mishra, P. and Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record. Rittel, H. and Weber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155-169. Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14. Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: foundations of the new reform Harvard Education Review, 57(1), 1-22. See also http://punya.educ.msu.edu/ Words – 813

Jane Hunter is an academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

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