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Primary school physical education: Professional learning as a partnership between a specialist and generalists

The quality of physical education (PE) lessons delivered by generalist primary school teachers is recognised across the literature as inadequate. As a secondary PE teacher, I became acutely aware of the challenges faced by generalist primary school teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand delivering PE lessons to their students. Issues underpinning the research were concerned with the effect of the marginalisation of PE in primary schools on teachers, the impact high stakes testing for literacy and numeracy has had on the availability of professional learning (PL) for teachers, and also a lack of confidence to deliver PE for many generalist teachers. The motivation for this study was to provide generalist primary teachers with a structured and supportive PL programme that could enhance their pedagogical skills, knowledge and confidence to teach PE. This research sought to examine how a specialist secondary PE teacher could support primary school teachers in the delivery of PE lessons. The PE Partnership Programme was developed with the support of Sport New Zealand’s KiwiSport funding initiative. The PL programme involved the modelling of lessons, co- teaching opportunities and the provision of resources to enhance pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and understanding of the curriculum model Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU), with the aims of growing their confidence, and facilitating the delivery of high-quality lessons. This study was situated in both the interpretivist and constructivist research paradigms. An interpretive paradigm was adopted as it allowed for an appreciation of how the teachers constructed and understood the realities of their lived experiences, feelings and interactions during the PL programme. The research was also positioned within the constructivist theory where knowledge acquisition is constructed rather than transmitted. Qualitative methods provided a basis for a study that was evaluative and reflective. Qualitative data was collected through analysis of documentation, semi-structured individual and focus group interviews, observation of teachers teaching PE and the collation of field notes throughout the PE Partnership Programme. The findings revealed that the teachers involved in the programme increased their confidence to teach PE and that their attitudes towards PE were changed: as a result three significant key learnings were identified. Firstly, it showed the need for positive relationships to be built between the facilitator and the participants. The relationship between the PL provider/knowledgeable expert and the generalist teachers has been observed to be crucial for the programme to be successful. Secondly, the necessity for the facilitator to understand the context in which the PL is being undertaken, which includes the school culture and the working conditions of the teachers. Thirdly, the teachers valued the fact that the PL was situated in their classroom practice alongside the students, using school facilities and equipment, and was not abstract theorising. Conversely, the findings indicated that despite the significant amount of time spent with each of the teachers, limited progress was made in developing PCK and physical education-content knowledge (PE-CK). This issue, in turn affected the teachers’ ability to move beyond the level of asking surface questions and they struggled to adapt activities to meet the needs of their students. The challenges of supporting generalist teachers as teachers of PE are highlighted, and guidelines are suggested for providers of PL concerning their responsibilities and positive attributes required. Also proposals have been made for the way that future PE professional earning (PE-PL) could be delivered to primary teachers. PE in the form that was presented in this PL programme has been shown to be valued by the primary teachers. Mixed with the reflections of where change in the programme may have been needed the research offers useful insights into how PE- PL for primary teachers could be reconsidered. The recommendations from this research are aimed at the funding organisations and providers of PL with the view to enhancing the future provision of primary school PE-PL in Aotearoa New Zealand and possibly considered in other contexts.
Type of thesis
Johnson, N. (2018). Primary school physical education: Professional learning as a partnership between a specialist and generalists (Thesis, Doctor of Education (EdD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12302
The University of Waikato
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