Reflecting on my teaching experience in gymnastic, it becomes really imperative to give a vivid account of those factors that enabled me prevail over the obvious circumstances surrounding such area of Physical Education (PE). Gymnastics, as an activity, involves the performance of exercises that require physical strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, balance, and grace. With all these enormous tasks facing me, I still needed to balance training/exercise with learning. This comes with the use of appropriate teaching methods and techniques, which are effective and avoid the interruption of exercise sessions due to uncontrolled and unforeseen circumstances inherent in the gymnastics. However, with the aid of the principles of differentiation and progression much can be achieved. In this report, I wish to critically evaluate the principles of differentiation and progression in relation to my understanding of the PE National Curriculum at key stage 3 and/or 4.
In Section 2, a critical review of the principle of differentiation will be the main focus. A critical review of the principle of progression will closely follow in Section 3. Section 4 contains concluding remark.
The Principles of Differentiation
Other than constituting the very core of inclusive and effective teaching, differentiation is also an essential attribute of the provisions targeted at talented PE pupils particularly at key stage 3 and/or 4. In Bailey (2001), a model of differentiation was suggested, which has been reconstructed and developed to press forward the traditional task and outcome PE exercises based on approach relying heavily on differentiation. Consequently, it presents an excellent medium for explaining the latent ability for differentiated talent development practices. Through this model some of the underlying principles of provision for talented pupils in PE and sport can be mapped out. Differentiation may be identified by organization, and by content. These are considered in the following subsections.
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Differentiation by Organisation
Talented pupils seek the opportunity to operate at high levels, which enables them to extend their boundaries and expectations as well as those of others; hence, they like working with pupils of similar abilities. Notwithstanding, there is usually a problem when initiating differentiated practices amongst pupils in the mixed ability groups that challenge every individual within the group according to their needs. Therefore, in order to fulfil expectations of the national curriculum, there may be a tendency to pitch the level of the lesson at the mean, the middle and the mass when teaching mixed ability groups, which has clear implications on the talented pupil who remains unchallenged. Some researchers believe that the average ability pupils always benefited most from mixed ability grouping while the talented pupils would benefit more the from ability specific grouping; on the other hand, some researchers have suggested that benefits gained from within a streamed group for the highly able are more significant than indicators of self-esteem for being part of the group (Freeman, 1998). In Capel et al (2005), it was opined that mixed ability groups are really in decline in education as such but PE is among a number of selected subjects that have retained this grouping mechanism.
One other factor that may be taken into consideration while dealing with the initiation of the principle of differentiation is the fact that the use of space within physical activity environments is often driven by consideration of the factors of time and pressure. In fact, space is a critical factor in regulating the opportunities for success at an appropriate level for the child. The use of less or more space may encourage innovative thought in the pupil in some instances. Also the role assigned to a pupil has a major impact on the lad – the use of a variety of roles does make the magic within the talent development process in PE; in essence pupil should not be assigned a role just because they can perform outstandingly in a specific area.
Differentiation by Content
Choosing the most suitable level and amount of content necessary to effectively challenge talent pupils may be an appropriate way to reconcile match the rate at which they progress through a series of tasks when compared with their peers. What constitutes the suitable level is relative. However, Eyre (2001) has argued that whilst it may be proper to use materials from lower key stages of the national curriculum or indeed by allowing the pupils to access the different levels of examination PE at the early stages. Notwithstanding, the increase in the pace of delivery in this regard leads to a danger that the provisions of the curriculum will lack depth, thereby leaving higher order thinking skills underdeveloped. This sort of ‘content acceleration’ has been viewed sceptically in other quarters, in so far as it is considered that the quality of learning experiences through enrichment should always be used as the primary means of delivery (Hymer and Michel, 2002; and Davies et al, 2005).
The pace of delivery is another important factor to be considered when ensuring quality provision for talented pupils. If the pace is too fast and pupils experience limited success – pupils may become frustrated and anxious about their inability to advance (Eyre, 2001). The ability of talented pupils to complete tasks at more refined levels consistently means that consideration of desirable outcomes is essential in ensuring they reach a productivity level appropriate to their ability. In some cases this may mean that lesson objectives presented to the group at the start of the lesson make explicit reference to expectations of pupils operating at high levels of competency across a range of abilities.
The Principle of Progression
The Principle of Progression implies the existence of an optimal level of overload that should be achieved, and a frame of optimal time for this overload to occur (Palmer, 2003). When overload is increased too slowly, improvement is unlikely. On the other hand, overload that is increased too fast will result in injury or muscle damage. Therefore, the principle of progression helps bring to realization the need for proper rest and recovery. Exhaustion and injury exhume when continual stress on the body and constant overload thrive. Training hard all the time should be discouraged as that may lead to a great deal of physical and psychological damage.
The Principle of Progression is built on five fundamental blocs, namely:
The Principle of Individual Differences – implies that since each individual is unique, we will all have a slightly different response to an exercise program;
The Principle of Overload – The exercise science principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. This implies that in order to improve our strength, fitness or endurance, there is the need to increase the workload accordingly. In other words, for a muscle (the heart also) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. This means that to increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to or at a higher intensity;
The Principle of Adaptation – refers to the body’s ability to adjust to an increased or a decreased physical demand. In other words, adaptation explains why beginning exercisers are often sore after starting a new routine, but after doing the same exercise for weeks and months they have little, if any, muscle soreness;
The Principle of Use/Disuse – implies that when it comes to fitness, you “use it or lose it”. This simply means that your muscles hypertrophy with use and atrophy with disuse;
The Principle of Specificity – simply states that exercising a certain body part or component of the body primarily develops that part. The Principle of Specificity implies that, to become better at a particular exercise or skill, one must perform that exercise or skill (Jackman and Currier, 1995).
In practice, many coaches and trainers usually add additional principles and guidelines to the above list. Notwithstanding, the above list of principles forms the cornerstone of all other effective training methods that will normally be obtained from a collection of the principles. However, it usually a challenging task in designing a program that adheres to all of these guidelines, so it is not a surprise that many athletes turn to a coach or trainer for help with the details so they can invest much of their time on the workouts.
Through the use of appropriate resources, significant enhancement of the provision for talent development in Physical Education can be achieved. Nevertheless that the availability of ICT resources have availed some teachers the opportunity to experiment with a range of delivery tools, one thing still lacking is a need for teachers to properly assess the educational virtues of selecting certain resources where proper support for teaching and learning is of utmost concern.
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