Focus on sport science sets pace for success

Issue: Volume 97, Number 20

Posted: 12 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9o1i

By focusing on the quality of learning, rather than the quantity of assessment, PE teachers at Central Hawke’s Bay College are helping students to gain a deeper understanding of sport science.

Central Hawke’s Bay College physical education teachers realised they needed to think about the structure of their sport science course when they noted too many of their students were receiving a not-achieved mark, due to non-submission.

Following a restructure of the course, the rates of Level 3 not-achieved marks dropped from 35.7 per cent in 2016 to 2.4 per cent in 2017, with similar results at Level 1 and 2. 

Head of Physical Education Jamie Welch says the school has seen an improvement in submission rates from Level 1–3 because of the implementation of a spaced learning model, focusing on quality of learning over quantity of assessment, and constantly reflecting on what can be done to make the programmes of learning more interesting.

“I surveyed students and found out why they weren’t handing their work in and decided spaced learning would give them more time. We took the theory that we were going to do less, but we were going to do it better,” he says.

When surveyed, the main reason students gave for not submitting work was because they felt their understanding was not of a high enough level for them to receive good marks. Teachers then researched which methods and course structure would allow more time to focus on rich learning.

“Confidence is very important and when students are not confident that they will pass they tend to choose other credits on offer. A confident and supported student will always perform better. Any accomplished athlete will tell you that confidence is the difference between gold and last,” Jamie says.

“The proof is in the pudding, as in the results … not only did the not-achieved rate go down, but the excellence rate went up. We sort of completely swung the pendulum.”

Students assess the physical health of members of the public during a health promotion evening.

What is spaced learning?

Spaced learning involves teaching a topic and then taking a break before revisiting it at a later stage.

“In senior physical education, much of the learning is focused around the biophysical and sociocultural elements. These elements can be quite challenging for some students so we decided that we would choose the order of our assessment events really carefully. When they really needed to have a good grasp on these elements was during term 2 each year,” Jamie says.

“We’d spend two terms essentially using spaced practice or space learning and we’d keep revisiting the content. We found that by the time they got to the end of term 2 in Levels 1, 2 and 3, they had a much better understanding of what these biophysical and sociocultural elements were and how to apply them.”

Reflection by staff has been a key part of the process, with Jamie basing his inquiry around this topic for several years. The approach is well suited to the subject and content as the sports science programme is internally assessed.

“There was a lot of consulting with the students really. It’s my belief that if they’re enjoying themselves they’re far more likely to get a better mark so we base it off them a lot. Every year I sit down with my students and say ‘what did you think of this programme, what were the good things about it, what needed improving?’,” Jamie says.

“When you look at the adjustments that we make to the programmes that we’re teaching, they’re only small adjustments. I think after about 10 years of doing that we’ve come up with a really good formula.”

The formula is simple, Jamie says; reducing assessment to create space for rich learning opportunities.

“I think we live in a world now where you just hop on the internet, you get knowledge and you use it, whereas spaced learning I think allows for a deeper understanding. Because you’re revisiting and revisiting it, I think it’s more knowledge that you keep, not knowledge that you’re going to hop on the internet, get, use and then forget immediately.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:49 am, 12 November 2018

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts