Physical Education’s Superheroes – Part 2

Powerful Preparation

Long ago, on a school ground far, far away…There was a physical educator who wanted to be fantastic for her students. She went to school for a LONG time, then continued to attend conferences and online professional development opportunities to learn new ideas. She applied those ideas while she practiced her trade daily. She learned how to make her physical education lessons more inclusive, active, differentiated, and enjoyable.

Before and during every lesson, she thought about her content (the “what to teach”) and her instruction (the “how to teach it”). While she was becoming a superhero to her students, she discovered that the real superheroes of her profession were Content and Instruction (C&I); because almost everything she had learned or ever would learn could be categorized in these two ways.

More importantly, C&I were two things within her locus of control. She knew she faced many impactful obstacles outside her daily, direct control. Barriers to PE quantity and quality such as colleagues with varying philosophies, lack of administrative support, insufficient facilities and/or equipment, too large class sizes, students having PE too infrequently, and many more. So she learned to focus on what she COULD control, C&I.

Last time we talked about why Instruction should be our professional growth target because while WHAT you plan to teach is so important, HOW you go about teaching it (and adjusting on the fly) can make the difference between a bad lesson/learning experience and a GREAT one. So, I introduced the concept of Powerful Preparation.

Many years ago when I was coaching I remember hearing that practice design and time allocation should reflect what is done in the game. E.g., if you spend 10% of your time transitioning from offense to defense then dedicate that % of the time to it and practice it as close to game speed/pressure as possible. When thinking about Powerful Preparation for teaching, think about what you do during your class to achieve the goal of student learning and achieving outcomes.

I’m a HUGE advocate for attending conferences, taking courses, listening to podcasts, participating in online learning opportunities, etc. Yet, let us major in the majors here. To benefit from Powerful Preparation, to improve your Instruction, there is nothing that beats videotape review. Nothing. All the conferences, courses, and gadgets in the world (if not applied through a filter of good Instruction) are meaningless. So, here’s my advice on videotape analysis:

Phase 1  Getting Started Going Solo.

  1. Tape segments and tape entire classes. Segments are useful because you can see if you’re (e.g.) spending too much time instructing, and if so, you can “re-teach” using fewer words. Entire classes are essential so you can time all the segments and adjust accordingly, and watch for the transitions from one activity to another then strategize on how to reduce transition time.
  2. Self-Assess using my 2-step analysis: First, ask yourself, “What was successful and why?” Take notes and write down all the good things you did from management to discipline to feedback. Then ask yourself, “If I taught this segment (or lesson) again, WOULD I do anything differently?” List any areas you think could be improved upon and HOW you would do if you had a second chance.

Phase 2 (when you feel ready) Pair Up & Repeat

  1. Recruit a Peer: Ask a peer to watch the lesson with or without you and ask for her/his feedback using the same 2-step method in #2. You give your self-assessment first; your colleague affirms and/or challenges your opinions, then supplements and fills in any gaps. Set goals to address any areas of concern (e.g., “I want to provide more individual, positive-specific feedback when students are practicing and ask for her/his feedback using the same 2-step method in #2. You give your self-assessment first; your colleague affirms and/or challenges your opinions, then supplements and fills in any gaps. Set goals to address any areas of concern (e.g., “I want to provide more individual, positive-specific feedback when students are practicing sport skills.”) and work alone or with peers to outline what you’ll do to achieve those goals and how you will know when you’ve achieved them.

Phase 3 – Get It In Writing.

  1. Add a Written Assessment Tool: Many are available online or better yet, you can create your own and align it to the actions and behaviors you feel are important. What do you want to see and hear? 50% or better MVPA? Seamless transitions with all students active? Speedy access/return of equipment? Complete the form on yourself and/or when you’re ready, ask your peer to after watching the videotape.

Powerful Preparation is best achieved by systematic videotape analysis. I truly believe every physical educator would maximize their instructional methodology if they did this systematically. The question now is, how often should you submit to being videotaped?

After teaching for more than 11 years (you could call me a veteran) I began working on the original SPARK research project (1990-1993) and taught/re-wrote/added new units and lessons) that curriculum for 3 years. During that time I was videotaped weekly. Every two weeks my tapes were reviewed/critiqued by peers and a mentor. While camera shy at first, soon I became used to seeing/hearing myself on film and really enjoyed the learning process. It made me a MUCH better physical educator. When I began teaching future teachers how to teach physical education at University of California, San DIego and Cal State San Marcos, I used videotape extensively. When I observed and supported veteran teachers in the fields while working on other research grants and projects, I again made videotape analysis our go-to method for improving instruction.

In closing, wherever you are in your teaching journey, I hope you’ll begin a systematic program of videotape review, and consider using my suggested methods. Not only will your videos help make you the best teacher you can be, you’ll have EVIDENCE of your great work. What better way to impress your administrator, parents, and colleagues than with videotape examples of your effective instruction and subsequent proof of student achievement? Think of your annual review, your Master’s degree, and your back to school night? You’ll find many ways to use these tapes to make you, your students, and your program shine!

I want to thank my friends at Leapstart ( and @LeapStartIndia) for sponsoring this blog; and my colleagues at SPARK ( and @Sportime_SPARK) for partnering with Leapstart to bring evidence-based physical education content and instruction to students around the world.

Here is Part I of the article physical-educations-superheroes, in case you missed it.

Author: Paul Rosengard ( would like to hear your comments. Feel free to email himat and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @paulrosengard