As many PE teachers will understand a lot of our students sign up for PE as they enjoy the practical side of the subject while giving little thought to the theory side. Once they are then on the course they are dissappointed with the heavy bias towards theory.
How do PE teachers, and other similar subjects, keep these types of learners engaged in non practical, classroom based activities?
Thats a real brain teaser, however PE being a specialism of my own I find that the best way to keep the learners motivated is to link theory with practical examples as much as possible in the hope that PE students will keep engaged due to the fact that if they understand the theory behind sporting themselves they can adapt and use it for their own benefit, as in most cases every PE student will have a specialist sport that the theory side can be addapted to.
Finally i thinks its very important when enrolling students that the weighting of theory and practical Is made very clear before they join up to the course to prevent any dissapointment.
I have found the same issue with my Equine students, they sign up to the courses with expectations of riding alot, with all the lessons being practical based out on the yard with the horses, despite the fact they are informed during interviewing stages detailing course modules etc there is alot of theoretical lessons too. I have found to engage learners attention i have to contextualise the subject matter into real life and incorporate lots of activities which they find fun. Using games and quizzes with group work and competitive elements usually achieves this. However, some of the more scientific and academically challenging modules can be difficult to do this with.
Firstly, I think when looking at our own course, we value the theory as we can see that it helps significantly when in our placements. However, this may be more effective as we are working in our placement areas each week.
Secondly, we have the same issue in the studios on the Fine Art degree, especially in the first year. The first semester consists of blocks of taster sessions of sculpture, installation, painting, print-making, drawing and history of art. But even in the painting sessions a lot of it at the beginning is theory and I have had to explain to quite a few demotivated students that they need that theory to progress within their works and take the step up from A-level (or whatever they have previously done) to degree standard. Like you have all said so far, the amount of theory and academic writing is expressed during interview stage. I think one way to combat this is to do an unexpected day off chucking paint on a canvas (or your equivalent) and explaining to learners that this is their day to do so and to expect theory or a combination from that point. I often had students say to me "i just want to paint!" and they didn't care about colour theory etc. I have seen it before so it is clearly an issue.
I have noticed recently that many of the people attracted to teaching have decided to change career path because they have realised that in order to extend their working life they need to rely on a skill set which is not tied to their physicality. Maybe this is a topic to explore with some of your students? I have met hairdressers, catering staff, mechanics all of whom say they can't operate with the physical demands on their bodies that their active working life demands. As a result, the theory they learned while working has given them a good grounding to switching their attention to sharing their skills and experience via training and teaching. How do you think your students would respond if you asked them how much sporting activity they will be able to accomplish in their fifties? Do you think it is possible to encourage them to think that far into the future? Do you think you can get them to ask themselves how they will earn a living after possible injury or the wear and tear of an active sporting life? Maybe some sporting hero life stories would help them see that they need a long career plan? Best wishes, Jax
A great point there, especially in the sporting industry today its far more demanding physically than it used to be 10/20 years ago. So in my opinion its vital that the students always have a second option not just because of injuries and demands on the body but the chance of success at the elite level now is very slim. Theory is fast becoming a part of nearly all industries now so a strong understanding of it will help with careers whatever the ability of students. This also makes the lessons inclusive by not just favouring the more able athletes and makes a level playing field for anybody to get involved with the sporting industry.
Jax's reply is brilliant. I assume your students are relatively young, so to try and get them to contemplate a further career before they've had the first may be difficult!!? Perhaps by using examples of those who have gone from being sporting 'heroes' on to other high profile positions may help? A few case histories of where sportspeople have combined training with serious study or business activities?
Like Hannah has said, an arts degree is also heavily laden with 'words'... personal statements, essays, reflective statements, journal keeping, sketchbook keeping, gallery reports, and these are for EVERY year of study, then a dissertation at the end...
Having said that, and after complaining, just as your students are doing, I can now fully appreciate why we had to do it. On that, perhaps you could organise for past students to regularly come back and talk to the current cohort? A GOOD word from their peers about getting their heads down to theory?...