Combined, Portfolio or Unit-by-Unit?

Over recent weeks I have had many discussion regarding the approach schools are using for National 4 or 5 Physical Education. Before I continue it is important to note that I have a vision as to how I think PE should be taught and how I think the Nationals should be taught, but it sits within a perfect (but achievable) world. I am intrigued as to how schools are tackling each unit and in particular the evidence required.

Pupils need to have evidence for a Performance Skills Unit, a Factors Impacting on Performance Unit and also a Portfolio to write up independently (for National 5 only). The Performance Skills unit is easy to evidence as it can be a comment based on my judgement and can be back up by a video of a pupils performance in a demanding conditioned practice or a small sided game performance. This part comes naturally and can easily be allowed for during each approach.

The Factors Impacting on Performance unit needs evidence against 3 Outcomes and with 3-6 standards within each Outcome. The SQA have outlined that they want paper evidence for each outcome and have supplied a candidate workbook to complete this with. The workbook however has many similarities to the portfolio.

The portfolio is where the pupils are to apply their knowledge and develop a performance from one activity. They are to identify an area in need of improvement, develop a training programme to improve on this area, ensure that they are on track through monitoring improvements and then finally show improvements while identifying future development needs. It sounds easy, and within my perfect PE curriculum the pupils will have the tools required to do this.

The combined approach allows for naturally occurring evidence which is documented and stored for future reference. In this approach pupils work through the body of knowledge and identify gaps in performance across a range of activities. Evidence is gathered from worksheets and ICT input that occurs throughout the course.

The portfolio approach is based on developing performance in an activity, a cycle of analysis for example, where pupils are allowed to personalise the course and can look at any activity from mountain biking to skiing. The lessons, i think, are based on a number of activities choses to reflect an area of knowledge best (i.e. using volleyball to teach cue recognition).

The unit-by-unit approach is where you teach each unit separately with the first being a focus on performance skills (in two activities), the second being a Factors Impacting on Performance Unit where the bulk of knowledge is taught and evidence is gathered against each outcome. The final unit would be where knowledge is applied and the portfolio is written, here is where pupils will be given choice of activity, in most cases.

Personally I have used a unit-by-unit approach (this year). I hope to build for next year and I will explain why. This year my pupils are essentially a blank canvas, they have had a practical focus for the past 3 years (the practical is outstanding) and have had some knowledge ingrained, but only some. I feel that by teaching unit-by-unit I can teach the knowledge in a progressive manner which allows evidence to be gathered in a manner that best meets the needs of my learners. Performance (in 3 activities – Rugby, Trampolining and Football) is good and will be revisited towards the end of the course and of course it is natural to assess and document performance as we go on (it is our bread and butter). I am about to start my Factors Impacting on Performance Unit where all evidence will be gathered and assessed by me and then finally pupils will complete their portfolio (hopefully) applying the knowledge that they have gained from both the Performance Skills and Factors Impacting Units.

Going back to my perfect world and how I hope it happens over the next few years. It is important that pupils gain a base knowledge prior to entering National Qualifications and this is where I believe good teaching and use of the Experiences and Outcomes come into play. We also have the benefit of a 3rd year option course called Performance PE and this year we are using it to focus on Performance (similar to my current crop) which allows us to teach the body of knowledge across a range of activities where the pupils are competent, which we are hoping our S1-S3 curriculum provides. During this course we will also introduce topics in Evaluating Performance, Improving Performance and Data Collection (at a low level). This will ensure that next year our pupils that choose PE will be prepared better and will allow us to teach using any approach that suits the learners.

Regardless of approach, however, I want to share a final thought. This thought isn’t mine but one I fully share and has been echoed again and again. Whatever approach you are using, whatever you want from your Junior Phase curriculum it is important that we don’t do anything that will impact on the futures of our young people. We must ensure that we provide the best service for our young people and that the experience they have in PE is fun and worthwhile.


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