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Inquiry in PE

Student Teachers Josh Stanley and Matthew Maccagno with Tammy Berry and Dean Schmeichel ~Physical Education grade 4-9

What could an inquiry unit in PE look like? At CSS, we challenged all 600 students from grade 4 to grade 9 to explore the question, “To what extent does training affect performance?” Each student was given the opportunity to choose a sport or activity that they were interested in, and then create a plan to improve a specific skill in that sport or activity. How the students chose to use their time over the course of the unit was entirely up to them. They had access to all the resources that CSS has for physical activity.

The rubric was created collaboratively between teachers and all the students in the school over the first two days of the unit.

Here’s what it looked like daily while students were working on their individual project:

For the most part, students were excited to have the freedom to work on something that they were interested in. However, not everything was perfect. If we were to do an inquiry unit in PE again, we would structure it differently. Some students saw this unit as an opportunity to play a sport against their friends, and as a result were measuring their results at the same time, against each other. This left these students with multiple manipulated variables, and affected the accuracy of their recorded data.

Student Feedback
Students were equally or more engaged than they would be in a traditional PE class

Students were given ownership over their own learning

Students started to understand the role of statistics in sport

The focus was on the process rather than the result – anyone could be successful
Safety concerns – available space

Initial setup was lengthy – lots of talking

We were uncomfortable giving students so much freedom in PE

Some students took the unit as a time for freeplay
A mix of students enjoyed the unit

A surprisingly significant number of students said they could apply what they had learned to their sport outside of PE

There was a mix of students in terms of their preference for being told what to do in PE versus having the freedom to choose

If we were to do this unit again, we would be sure to clearly explain the importance of eliminating human error from their data. In the future we would try to incorporate more structure into this project, while increasing the student’s activity time. A potential way that we could do this would be to start a unit by teaching the student’s pertinent skills, and then implementing our inquiry question. Students could then pick a specific skill they had learned in that unit and find ways to improve themselves. At the conclusion of the unit, students could be brought back into a game scenario and then try to transfer their improved skill to the game itself. This would keep all students working on the same activity, and would limit safety concerns. We would also work with a smaller group: 50 students proved to be quite challenging to manage in the space available.


Garry McKinnon said...

It is excellent to see partner teachers and student teachers working together in exploring inquiry in physical education and blogging about the experience. Through the blog you provide a detailed description of the process of engaging students in exploring the relationship between training and performance through a disposition of inquiry. The video clip is very effective in demonstrating the student perspective and highlighting the nature of inquiry in physical education.

Anonymous said...


I love this idea, I am going to try it with my school. I am in a PLC group that is exploring how to integrate inquiry throughout science courses. However, your rubric won't load. If you see this post could you email the rubric to me?
Thank you!

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