#Ophea100 Learning Series: Shifting the Narrative in Health and Physical Education towards Action
Imagine what a Health and Physical Education program might look like where the narrative comes from and authentically represents the needs and interests of a highly diverse student population. How would this mindset positively impact the overall well-being and quality of our students’ lives?
On Tuesday, August 31st 2021, as a wrap up to the #Ophea100 Learning Series, Ophea hosted a webinar that discussed novel and innovative approaches to Health and Physical Education pedagogy. This session provided a space for panelists and participants to share, learn, and acknowledge the potential benefits and harms in this subject area, along with ideas and strategies on how to provide our students with meaningful opportunities for both individual and collective advocacy and empowerment.
We would like to thank the moderator of this webinar:
Tim Fletcher is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Brock University, Canada. Tim is a former Health and Physical and Education Teacher and now teaches future teachers. His research interests are broadly in teacher learning and self-study of practice methodology. With Déirdre Ní Chróinín (Mary Immaculate College, Ireland), much of his recent work has focused on developing pedagogies that support teachers in prioritizing meaningful physical education experiences for their students. Tim is a member of the Editorial Boards for the journals Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education, and Studying Teacher Education. He is Chair-elect of the PHE Canada Research Council and is also on Ophea’s Board of Directors.
We would also like to extend our appreciation for our panel guests:
- Ken Leang, Vice Principal, York Region District School Board
- Nicki Keenliside, Vice Principal, Toronto District School Board
- Milena Trojanovic, Health and Physical and Education Teacher, Halton District School Board
- Andrea Haefele, Health and Physical Education Curriculum Consultant, Ophea
Through provocations, discussions, and examples of existing teaching models, participants reflected on their current role and opportunities to shift the narrative in their school community.
Setting the Scene
If we were to offer the current forms of physical education today to future generations, would they want it? What would we keep, what would we forget, and what would we add?
With a curricular lens, Canada and Ontario are known as an educational utopia. Accountability measures, teacher quality, and equity are some things that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development considers as setting Canadian education apart from other countries; but is this a distorted perspective? When we narrow in on Health and Physical Education, lenses of equity and implementation are useful in highlighting what is being done and what could be changed. Traditional approaches in Health and Physical Education are ineffective for many students, particularly when we think about the harm that can be and has been done in the name of Health and Physical Education. Health and Physical Education has served to further marginalize many students according to their race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, body shape/size, access to movement opportunities, and interest in different forms of movement.
Building learning spaces for all students and celebrating and valuing movement experiences as foundational to student learning can be valuable starting points.
Shifting the Narrative
What might a version of Health and Physical Education look like where the narrative comes from and authentically represents the needs and interests of a highly diverse student population and their communities?
What might a version of Health and Physical Education look like where all students can say that Health and Physical Education is personally significant to them and positively impacts the quality of their lives?
These questions compel a more open approach to Health and Physical Education programming and pedagogy. There are some approaches that are better suited to addressing equity agendas or in providing a foundation for redesign and thinking about a type of Health and Physical Education that better suits the needs of a highly diverse student population.
Some pedagogical approaches that support this agenda include those that provide students with an opportunity to use their voice and choice, inquiry approaches, negotiated assessment schemes, negotiated content selection, and socially just, inclusive practices. It also includes those approaches where students can make specific connections to their lives inside and outside of school.
Specific approaches that reflect this equity agenda include:
- Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (Hellison, 2003)
- Activist Approaches (Oliver & Kirk, 2015)
- The Practising Model (Barker et al., 2019)
- Trauma-informed Pedagogies (Quarmby et al., 2021)
- Meaningful Physical Education (Fletcher et al., 2021)
All of these approaches recognize that flexibility is needed in order for educators to make informed professional judgments about how to adopt and modify them according to the needs of their students, their school, and what they have access to within their school communities.
When we think about shifting the narrative in Health & Physical Education, share what resonates with you in your role, your school community, and/or your personal journey.
Examples of panelist and educator responses:
On where to start…
- What do I expect for my students rather than of my students? I want them to have fun and build positive social interactions with their peers. Curriculum pieces have to wait until relationships are built and I understand students’ stories, then the learning opportunities become more meaningful.
- We often talk about starting with the why, the what, and the how, but that misses the who?
- I used to think that I needed to know and have everything prepared in order to start the school year. But now, I know that it is okay to not know everything, and I need to take the time to know my students first.
On how to build relationships…
- What is my positionality, my biases? When I begin to reflect, I can open myself up to learning from other educators.
- What does a Meaningful School look like? We often hear that we need to build relationships with staff, students, and their families but how do we do that? How do we put that in action? It needs to be an intentional part of our practice and modelled from an administrative perspective too.
- Providing opportunities for educators to come together and meet; relationships need to be built first in order to collectively problem-solve.
- Classroom community building and developing relationships with my students is the most important thing.
- Kids perform/step-up/learn/try/ask questions/challenge/step-up for teachers that they know care.
On the role of vulnerability…
- Asking my students for feedback about my instructional practices, assessment practices, classroom culture/climate, etc.
- My priority and focus has always been about enhancing student learning and experiences and doing it in a way that reflected my core values of kindness, optimism, and respect.
- When outside of my comfort zone, my work has been the most meaningful personally and professionally. It has had a positive impact on student learning and relationships with colleagues.
- When you are clear and honest with students by sharing the rationale, they join in the journey. When you adopt a new model as long as you are aware of the rationale, it will be much easier to grow as a professional and get the students involved in meaningful learning.
- When you are making a shift in changing your practice, you don’t have to do it alone. Establish a community of practice so you are able to make that knowledge transfer, share information, and support each other.
On the importance of inclusion…
- Facilitating authentic, inclusive, meaningful movement opportunities for increasingly diverse and complex learners, within a regular classroom context is needed to shift the narrative.
- I now think that in order to work effectively and teach the “whole child”, we need to take the time to understand the complexities of all of our differences.
- Meaningful H&PE really resonates with my role in H&PE and my personal learning journey. I think finding personal relevance and meaning through movement is essential for healthy, active living. I am still learning how to find meaning, myself. I want students to never feel out of place in my class.
- Think about your role and what you’ve learned over the years, and realize that it starts with us and our actions and words. The physical space can only go so far. When we take the time to respond with empathy, actions and words can go a long way.
When Health and Physical Education programs are delivered in healthy schools and supported by school staff, families, and communities learning is most effective. The concepts of equity, diversity and inclusion are central to the implementation of the Health and Physical Education curriculum, and by understanding the collective history of Health and Physical Education we can begin to unravel how this subject area can contribute to reconciliation and achieve its goals of respecting and celebrating diversity.
As we mark our 100th anniversary, we’re more committed than ever to working toward change. Where we go from here is up to all of us, let’s keep the conversation going! Share with us @OpheaCanada on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To stay up-to-date on Ophea professional learning offerings, resources, and supports sign up for Ophea’s e-newsletter eConnection.