The importance of early intervention FMS-focused programs has been well documented, but traditional didactic teaching methods have tended to dominate the learning of FMS in the primary school context.
Over the last 15 years I have been working in the area of FMS with primary school teachers, as well as K-12 teacher education students (TES), in the UK and Australia.
During this time I have noted some significant similarities between the pedagogy and practice in both countries.
All UK and Australian primary physical education syllabuses have FMS content within them, and many primary teachers and TES appreciate the importance of teaching FMS, but skill-drill approaches are apt to dominate in their classroom practice.
This can sometimes be attributed to a teacher’s lack of confidence in how to support such specialist physical skills, but it also appears to be intimately connected to teachers’ own experiences of learning FMS in technocratic ways.
To break this negative and repetitive cycle of practice, I have supported teachers and TES to learn more playful, creative and inclusive ways of teaching, learning and assessing FMS.
In this manner, they become better able to transfer student-centred classroom pedagogy to the physical education context more specifically.
There is an important link between children’s play and their general development. Indeed, children’s impulse to play is a driving force in their lives, probably due to their desire to explore, interact with and make sense of their world.
Within the physical education context, play-based pedagogy that nurtures the development of FMS is an ideal medium for children to practise, develop and consolidate their movement proficiency.
Teachers can adopt creative approaches and set up a range of FMS-oriented learning activities in which students hone their skills whilst moving in diverse, whole-bodied ways.
For example, to develop jumping, leaping and rolling skills, the teacher can tell a jungle story, asking the children to vary jumps low to the floor with vertical jumps shooting upwards to resemble a wide-mouthed frog.
When an object such as a huge log that blocks the frog’s way is mentioned, children can be directed to perform log rolls across the nearest mat.
When monkeys who leap from tree to tree are talked about, children can be encouraged to perform leaping actions across the width of the mats.
When the frog becomes sleepy, children can execute forward rolls across their mats and then curl up small and have a momentary rest.
In terms of assessing FMS, there are many student-centred strategies that work successfully in the play-based context.
These strategies need to be implemented over time and in both informal and formal settings.
Some of the most effective student-centred assessment strategies for FMS include learning stories, rubrics (these can be student-created), teacher-student conversations, audio/visual recordings, student drawings, and peer and self-reflection. Information gathered from such wide-ranging sources enable the teacher to construct robust, rich profiles of their students’ capacities to demonstrate what FMS they know, understand and are able to do.
At the same time, these types of strategies also help to ensure that the student remains an integral and authentic part of FMS-based assessment processes.