Preparing physical education preservice teachers to design instructionally aligned lessons through constructivist pedagogical practices

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    of Idaho

    h i g h l i g h t s

    < Design of learning environment linked to qu< Learning to teach requires learning content,< Teacher education signicantly impacts PSTs

    one-year Graduate Diploma Physical Education program. Data were analysed inductively (Patton, 1990)using the constant comparative method (Rubin & Rubin, 1995). Results revealed that PSTs varied in their

    that begins within initial teacher education and continuesthroughout a teachers career. As a result of her literature review on

    just one phase of the teacher learning continuum, albeit a complexand challenging phase (OECD, 2005).

    This study examines the extent to which our pedagogicalpractices as teacher educators encouraged preservice teachers(PSTs) perspectives and dispositions toward learning to teach,appreciating that there is a strong association between the designof the learning environment and the quality of PSTs experiencesand their learning (Darling-Hammond, 1997). More specically, thepurpose of this study was to explore the extent to which the

    * Corresponding author. Tel.: 353 (0) 61 2341255.E-mail addresses: (A. MacPhail),

    (D. Tannehill), (G. Goc Karp).1 Tel.: 353 (0) 61 202884; fax: 353 (0) 61 202814.2

    Contents lists available at

    Teaching and Tea

    journal homepage: www.e

    Teaching and Teacher Education 33 (2013) 100e112Tel.: 1 (208) 885 2187.that were noted in the PSTs attempts to design instructionally aligned lessons will guide the teachereducators in revising program components and their own practice.

    2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    1. Introduction

    Teacher learning and learning how to teach is a major focus ofmost teacher education programs worldwide. Avalos (2011) con-tends that teacher learning should ultimately be focused on studentgrowth and represents a type of teacher professional development

    teacher professional development, she encourages teacher educa-tors to remember that learning to teach requires personalcommitment, and a collective focus to cooperate and challenge oneanothers beliefs and perspectives while considering options thatmight improve practice. Organization for Economic Co-operationand Development (OECD) recognises initial teacher learning asarticulation of the various elements of instructional alignment that were captured in the rich task.Through the use of such constructivist strategies as problem solving, group discussions, and criticalfriends, PSTs understood and valued the process of instructional alignment as they moved from feelingsof fear and apprehension to being condent in their own development. Areas of strength and deciencya r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 26 September 2011Received in revised form29 September 2012Accepted 18 February 2013

    Keywords:Constructivist pedagogyLearning to teachInstructional alignment0742-051X/$ e see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. of PSTs experiences and learning.learning about learning and teaching. understanding of learning to teach.

    a b s t r a c t

    Examining how teacher education inuences preservice teachers (PSTs) application of content knowl-edge, decision making when planning for teaching, creation of innovative teaching practices and designof aligned instruction, has signicant implications for understanding learning to teach. The purpose ofthis study was to explore the extent to which the constructivist pedagogies (e.g., interactive communitydiscussions, problem solving, group challenges) employed by teacher educators through the imple-mentation of a rich task (Macdonald, Hunter, & Tinning, 2007) assisted PSTs in their understanding andconstruction of knowledge about instructional alignment. Data collection employed rich tasks and focus-group interviews with a sample of 31 physical education teacher education (PETE) PSTs enrolled on abDepartment of Movement Sciences, University , P.O. Box 442401, Moscow, ID 83844-2401, USAaDepartment of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, IrelandPreparing physical education preservicelessons through constructivist pedagogi

    Ann MacPhail a,*, Deborah Tannehill a,1, Grace GocAll rights reserved.achers to design instructionally alignedl practices

    rp b,2

    SciVerse ScienceDirect

    cher Education

    lsevier .com/locate/ tate

  • Teachconstructivist pedagogies employed by teacher educators assistedPSTs in their understanding and construction of knowledge aboutinstructional alignment. The study represents an effort to groundPST learning in a particular set of experiences that promotemeaningful engagement with, and reection on, the notion ofinstructional alignment as a practice of good teaching. In order toframe our intentions of working with PSTs in meaningful ways tosupport their learning as teachers, it is imperative that we engagewith the complexity of learning to teach, constructivist theory andassociated pedagogies, and instructional alignment as a pre-requisite for worthwhile and meaningful learning.

    1.1. Learning to teach

    Whether at the preservice or beginning teacher level, learningto teach is complex and requires learning content, learning aboutlearning, and learning about teaching. There is a wealth of inter-national research in general education and across all subject areasthat examines learning to teach and how a beginning teachermoves from a novice teacher to a competent, and even expert,teacher. Some of this literature is focused on the types of knowl-edge needed to teach (Loughran, 2006; Lowenberg-Ball, HooverThames, & Phelps, 2008; Rovegno, 1993a, 1993b; Shulman, 1986),the stages through which PSTs pass in their quest to becomecompetent teachers (Furlong & Maynard, 1995), and the phases ofteacher socialisation that impact a teachers development(Lawson, 1986; MacPhail, OSullivan, & Tannehill, 2010). Teachereducation is responsible for setting the stage for PSTs, and ulti-mately novice teachers, to work through these challenges usingdifferent pedagogies, at different times, and with differentlearners. These pedagogies take diverse forms and involve variouslearning theories and perspectives that guide learning includingbehaviorist, cognitive, constructivist, social learning, and morerecently complexity theory, all of which offer diverse approachesfor teaching practices.

    When learning to teach, preservice and novice teachers areforced to negotiate the relationship between learning how to teachand practicing teaching with young people in varying contexts(Loughran, 2006). How teachers knowledge is developed is ofcritical concern to teacher education internationally. If teachereducation is to educate teachers to design and deliver quality ed-ucation programs to impact student learning, they must recogniseand acknowledge how teachers construct knowledge, the condi-tions under which this learning is most effective and the peda-gogical strategies that might facilitate this knowledge development(Tsangaridou, 2006).

    An abundance of research has examined the process by whichthese inexperienced and novice teachers learn to teach and thecontent considered essential for this teaching. This includes con-tent knowledge (Graber,1995; Herold &Waring, 2009), pedagogicalcontent knowledge learned simultaneously with content knowl-edge (Shulman, 1986) and more recently the idea of PSTs appreci-ating the exibility of content when teaching (Darling-Hammong &Snowdon, 2005; Loewenberg-Ball, 2000).

    Recognising the importance of pedagogical content knowledge(PCK) in the design and teaching of quality physical education,Tsangaridou (2006) summarised much of the research on PCK inphysical education. Findings that she reported as having importantimplications for teachers construction of PCK include: 1) PSTs PCKis insufcient in todays school contexts (Rovegno, 1992, 1993a,1993b, 1994, 1995), 2) PSTs content knowledge lacks develop-mental appropriateness (Rovegno, 1994, 1995), 3) PSTs use of PCKduring teaching practice is linked to level being taught, priorexperience in using these pedagogies, interactions with and sup-

    A. MacPhail et al. / Teaching andport from cooperating teachers, and response received from pupils(Graber, 1995), 4) PCKmay need to develop following acquisition ofmore in-depth knowledge about teaching (Sebrin, 1995), 5) PCKdevelops as a result of teachers willing to focus on analysing,adapting and revising their own teaching practices (Grifn, Dodds,& Rovegno, 1996), 6) PCK can have a signicant impact a PSTspedagogical practice (Tsangaridou, 2002), and 7) PSTs PCK developsas a result of what McCaughtry and Rovegno (2003) refer to as thereality of the teaching context e.g., moving from blaming studentsas opposed to recognising their own inadequacies and thecomplexity of motor development, or ignoring students feelingsand emotions by coming to terms with how emotions can enhancestudent learning. Constructivist pedagogy emphasises the role ofpedagogical content knowledge and the ability to engage learnersin knowledge construction.

    Constructivist pedagogies inuence on learning to teach.A constructivist approach to the teaching of teachers, prominent

    in teacher education is based on the notion of using currentknowledge and past experiences as the framework for constructingnew knowledge and new meaning (Behets & Vergauwen, 2006;Richardson, 1997; Tinning, 2006). Use of constructivist pedagogiesrequires teacher education programs to redesign and reformatmany of their practices to invite and utilise the individual andcollective voice of the PST (Rovegno, 2003; Winitzky & Kauchak,1997). Kirk and Macdonald (1998) encourage the use of construc-tivist approaches to teacher education suggesting that they provideopportunities for critical, in-depth and important thinking aboutteaching and learning.

    Constructivism suggests learning is experiential in that peoplecreate knowledge and draw meaning from that knowledgethrough their own experiences and ideas (Dewey, 1933/1998;Kolb, 1975). From a constructivist perspective, learning is bothcultural and social involving social interaction and collaborationwith learning peers, as well as interaction with more knowl-edgeable individuals within society (Biggs, 1996; Kuiper, Volman,& Terwel, 2009; Pontecorvo, 2007). For this experiential learningprocess to be sustained and developed, Vygotsky (1978) arguesthat learners will progress from one educational task to morechallenging tasks only through improved self condence in theirability to be successful in various problem-solving experiences.Brooks and Brooks (1993), similarly, suggested that constructivistpedagogies include1) inspiring student initiative, 2) acceptingstudent autonomy, 3) employing cognitive language to challengecritical thinking, 4) fostering independent thinking and innovationby building on student responses, 5) developing knowledge con-struction by challenging students to recognise prior learning, 6)provide interactive opportunities among students, 7) encouragecritical thinking and problem solving individually and collectively,and 8) provide time, prompts, redirected questions and probing topush students to develop and integrate new knowledge andconstruct their own meaning. Fosnot (1996) recommends veprinciples of constructivism with implications for educationalpractice with which teachers and teacher educators engage asthey design learning experiences. He suggests that (i) learning isdevelopmental, (ii) learning requires cognitive dissonance wherequestioning facilitates learning, (iii) reexivity drives learning, (iv)community dialogue promotes thinking, and (v) through theprocess of learning new conceptions of knowledge are oftendeveloped.

    In their review of physical education research from aconstructivist perspective, Rovegno and Dolly (2009) stress that,constructivism is a theory of learning and not a set of instruc-tional strategies (p. 243). As their education colleagues have done,they highlight the widely accepted principles on which construc-tivism is based, i.e., learning is active, knowledge is socially con-

    er Education 33 (2013) 100e112 101structed, and learners create knowledge in relation to what they

  • eachalready know (Holt-Reynolds, 2000). Constructivist pedagogy en-courages knowledge fashioned by learners, taking place in class-rooms created as learning communities where learning occursthrough peer interaction, collaboration and student ownership ofeducational experiences (Azzarito & Ennis, 2003; Kirk &Macdonald, 1998). When referring to previous work, Hastie andCurtner-Smith (2006) encourage teacher educators that, whenusing a constructivist approach to teaching physical education,students must be active learners, in that they perform tasks whichinvolve solving problems and making decisions; social learners, inthat they formulate knowledge by interacting with their peers;and creative learners, in that they discover and understandknowledge by experimenting with the subject matter [authorsemphasis] (p. 22).

    An increased interest in constructivist theory and practices inphysical education has made an impact on teacher education pro-grams as they assist PSTs in developing their teaching skills andknowledge. Brock, Rovegno, and Oliver (2009) propose that twophysical education curriculum models, Sport Education andTeaching Games for Understanding, utilise constructivist peda-gogies that foster students making sense of their own learning.Examples of these pedagogies include small group work (often inteams), responsibility (for self and team), leadership (in the form ofroles beyond player), problem solving (what skills to use when),and decision making (making tactical decisions). Moreover, both ofthese curriculum models require students to construct their ownknowledge through social interaction with classmates (Rovegno &Dolly, 2009). Light (2008) also encourages recognition that Teach-ing Games for Understanding and Sport Education can be bestunderstood through Lave and Wengers (1991) situated learningframework as reected in a student-centered team approach, crit-ical thinking and group problem solving. As with Light (2008),Rovegno (1998) argues that physical education teachers need astrong understanding of constructivist principles if they are toimplement physical education effectively and allow students toachieve success.

    Light (2008) highlights that constructivism has become amainstay in the physical education literature. He encouragesphysical educators to consider what has been termed complexlearning theory to convey what all constructivist approaches havein common, that is, learning is a process, is student-centered,contextual, develops from experience, involves interaction be-tween the mind and the body, and is complex and unpredictable.Light (2008) notes the prominent role of the body in complexlearning theory and argues that this provides physical educatorsthe opportunity for reconceptualizing the teaching of physicaleducation and its place in the curriculum (p. 28) to extend beyondacqu...


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