During the l990s academics, researchers, policy makers, teachers, and sport administrators have been talking of a crisis in physical education. With the Senate Inquiry into Physical and Sport Education, State Education Department reviews of physical education in WA and Victoria and the advent of the national curriculum physical education has been foregrounded in a large number of educational settings. Tinning, Kirk and Evans have been able to capture the spirit of this crisis in their new book Learning to teach physical education.
In contrast to many other physical education textbooks designed for the teaching of PE in primary schools Learning to teach physical education scratches beneath the surface of current school practices. In almost all aspects the book challenges the current orthodoxy of Daily PE and then successfully goes beyond this challenge to alert readers to the problematic nature of physical education and the often forgotten issues that underlie the teaching of a vital part of the primary school curriculum. The book aims to empower teachers to "approach the subject pragmatically and flexibly and to look beyond existing practices to alternatives which may fall outside current aims and purposes" (p.46).
The orientation of the book is exemplified by the following quote in the section on the educational purposes of physical education.
... what makes human movement different from other kinds of movement is reflective consciousness, our ability as human beings to understand ourselves in relation to other people and things in the world, and to use this understanding to generate new knowledge and thus exert some degree of control over our individual and collective lives. (p.57)Physical education teachers in primary and secondary schools and in teacher education programs should challenge themselves to develop both an understanding of and an implementation strategy to support such a view of physical education. Incorporating the messages in Learning to teach physical education can facilitate this necessary process.
The 11 chapter book embraces much of the previously published work of the three authors who have been at the cutting edge of physical education inquiry in the last decade. It is very pleasing that research and scholarship has driven this publication.
Chapters 1, 2 and 3 provide an historical and contemporary context for the perceived status, scope and purpose of physical education in primary schools. Chapters 4 and 5 raise the 'prickly' issues related to the teaching of fitness education and sport in physical education. Many teachers and some teacher educators will gain little comfort from these chapters. Nevertheless the messages need to be heard.
Chapters 6 through 10 outline the issues of implementing quality PE lessons and programs. There is no cookbook approach offered and many in physical education will be chastened by the critique of ALT-PE. The authors have perhaps overemphasised the limitations of ALT-PE given that researchers in this area have communicated both the strengths and weaknesses of ALT-PE as a research tool and how the data need to be triangulated with other sources of data, eg, teacher's intentions, student perceptions of effective teaching. I believe the pupil-centred nature of ALT-PE is worth pursuing.
Chapter 9 focuses on evaluation practices which somewhat paradoxically rely on the reporting of fitness, skills and sporting behaviour, to show a example of 'good' evaluation practice. It is a pity that national curriculum terminology and recently released student outcome statements for the health and physical education learning area could not have been incorporated in this chapter. Books can never be completely up to date. The national profile promotes evaluation across strands and would have complimented the messages in this chapter very nicely.
Chapter 10 is a particularly pleasing addition to such a book. The Chapter focuses on learning to teach on teaching practice and ongoing professional development issues. The emphasis on the reflective teacher and the possibilities of action research to support this process are salutary aspects of the book.
Learning to teach physical education is presented in a readable manner with something of interest for all physical educators, even those who just want to flick through the pages (the graphics are fun). The book should be read by all teacher educators involved in the preparation of primary and secondary school teachers; even our colleagues in mainstream education would see how PE has changed or can be changed. The dilemma that we teacher educators are facing is whether this is the best book for pre-service teachers who have a one-off unit in health and PE in their undergraduate preparation. It grapples with some issues that 18 and 19 year old students are very unprepared to tackle. But the book is clearly the best currently available in the field; it is based on research in Australian schools and, as many of the teacher educators who may choose to use the book will find it difficult to embrace, they may just be the best people to share the content with student teachers.
Faculty of Education
Edith Cowan University
Bolton, Lewis, G. & Catherwood, D. (1993).
The early years: Development, learning and teaching
The writers of The early years set for themselves an ambitious project. They aim to "provide a review of recent research and theories of development and learning in the early childhood years and to draw from them the implications for effective teaching" (p.3). Linking research, theory and practice is a laudable aim and yet the number of publications which succeed in translating research and theory into fully articulated explanations of practice is few.
The early years is worth reading for its explanation of the neo-Piagetian school of writers, for an overview of developing personal identity and social competence and for a review of artistic development and learning. The text has a 'course reader' style with chapters on perception and thinking processes, language, motor development, artistic and social processes and development. A cognitive perspective is the common thread which weaves these chapters together. The child is construed as an active processor increasing and refining competence from birth - be it social, physical, aesthetic, language or intellectual. Pragmatic problem solving in day-to-day experiences with peers, adults and objects of interest provides the motivation for children to experiment, construct and negotiate their day-to-day experience.
This text upholds the early childhood tradition of giving strong focus to social development. Attention is given to socialisation and family relationship, parenting style, individual temperament and inter-generational factors in explaining behaviour. The real challenges of looking at changing family composition, management of emotional and behavioural problems and support for children in dysfunctional families remain unaddressed. Throughout the text, despite its Australian origin, attention to American research tends to prevail so I was left with a feeling that distinctiveness did not emerge from the illustrative material.
Programs recognising that learning in social contexts is a dynamic and reciprocal process are endorsed either directly or indirectly in each chapter. Readers should come away reviewing their assumptions about what young children can do at an early age, affirming the importance of play and considering ways by which processes in early school foster or inhibit thought and initiative in children.
The link to practice is less explicit than the aim of the text implied. Opportunities to highlight the contradiction between zeal to set and expect specific outcomes and the reality of diverse contexts and ways of seeing were largely set aside. The need for more emphasis to be placed on linking the world of early childhood with policy, pedagogy and practice in the early years of school and beyond remains.
The early years sets out clear evidence of dynamism in young children's development and learning and indicates the importance of context to the child's construction of knowledge. This text should prompt educators exploring and refining curriculum statements and profiles of subject matter to consider the place of values and culture in teaching and learning and acknowledge the real challenge of catering for divergence in students' perspectives on subject matter.
Edith Cowan University
© 1994 Issues in Educational Research
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