Tim Fletcher believes physical education can provide children and youth with inclusive and positive experiences which can contribute to a meaningful life.
This motivates him to constantly adapt his teaching practices to ensure his own students are making the connection between movement and empowerment.
The Associate Professor of Kinesiology recently received the 2017 Best Paper Prize awarded annually by the journal Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy for his article, “Developing principles of physical education teacher education practice through self-study.” His research looks at ways post-secondary educators can better train future teachers and coaches to foster meaningful experiences for young people.
“I’m always looking to improve methods of teaching our physical education students,” says Fletcher, who is the recipient of an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. “By focusing my research on these promising principles, I’m able to communicate them more clearly with students and colleagues and refine them based on their input.
“This also helps students understand how they can identify principles that can guide their own practice in the future.”
Using results from several self-studies of his own teaching practices over a four-year period, Fletcher has been able to identify patterns and themes about which methods are most effective. By sharing them as part of his research, other physical education teacher educators around the world are also able to use that information.
“Self-study is currently a novel, though fast-emerging, approach to research in physical education,” says founding editor of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy Professor David Kirk. “Tim shows how self-study can be conducted with rigour and a high level of scholarship. He is able to show how others can also learn from his carefully researched professional experiences.”
One of the strategies Fletcher uses is to ensure his students experience being a ‘learner’ first before challenging them to step into the role of the teacher.
“People who want to become teachers or coaches don’t just learn from watching me teach,” Fletcher explains. “When I’m teaching Brock students in the gym, I explain why I am moving around the gym, why I frame the questions the way I do and why activities are sequenced in a certain way. This modelling allows them to experience a situation as a learner and then as a teacher or coach simultaneously.”
This approach is the result of significant shifts in the last 10 years regarding how physical education is taught, moving away from just focusing on sports and running drills to trying to be inclusive for as many children as possible.
“Physical education is a prominent aspect of university programmes in Canada,” explains Kirk. “It is a popular, multidisciplinary field of study among young people where students learn a wide range of transferrable skills.”
Fletcher says it’s important that aspiring teachers and coaches understand that for many children, movement does not come easily.
“Many of my students tend to be highly able and identify as competent movers or athletes. It is imperative these future educators gain an appreciation to provide experiences that are inclusive and meaningful for everyone.
“I ask them to think about how they might adapt certain activities for a very diverse group of young people with varying needs and abilities.”
Whether graduates want to work with children in a school setting, at a community-based organization or as coaches for elite junior athletes, Fletcher says it’s important for them to ensure the activity is appropriate for their skill level, has a degree of social interaction and provides participants with the opportunity to have fun.