Backwards Designing The Ideal #PhysEd Teacher
by Joey Feith
Earlier this year, the faculty here at St. George’s School of Montreal did an activity to help us practice our backwards design skills. We were presented video clips of three different individuals who demonstrate the qualities, beliefs, and work ethics that we hope our students will develop during their time at our school and continue to develop throughout their adult lives.
The video my group focused on was a Bill Maher interview with Eva Longoria, who was on the show to dicuss her documentary “Food Chains” (which focuses on the terrible working situations migrant workers face in America’s algricultural industry). After watching the video, my group had to identify the knowledge, understandings and skills (KUDs) that Eva Longoria demonstrated during her interview and then, through a process of backwards design, imagine how those KUDs could have been developed over time (specifically, throughout her K-12 education).
The goal of the exercise was to have us practice “starting with the end in mind” and then backwards design from there so that we could create a map of how to get our students to that place where they will have developed all of the knowledge, skills, and understandings that we hope they will have acquired by the time they graduate.
The exercise was an eye opener for me and it’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. It has already had a huge impact on how I am going about my curriculum planning (you can learn more about all of that here), and now I would like to apply the process to my professional development.
Believe it or not, my ultimate goal is to be the best physical educator that I can be. I’ve been really lucky to get to see a few “Master Teachers” in action, and I’m looking to join their ranks. Why? Because I want to be confident that when a student enters my gymnasium, my physical education program will help them effectively develop into a physically literate individual.
I want to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my teaching “works”. My students deserve that.
Over the past few years, I’ve been doing a variety of things to help me develop as a teaching professional. I’ve attended conferences, read books, reflected on my teaching through journalling/blogging, engaged with high quality physical educators via social media, and have tried to put myself in a variety of situations that would challenge me as a teacher. Although I definitely feel that I have come a long way as a teacher, I’m not even 10% to where I want to be.
Where I want to be…
Where the heck is that!? I keep saying I want to be the best teacher I can be, but the truth is that ***I don’t even have a clear idea of what that looks like***. How can I be setting myself professional development goals when I don’t even really know what it is I am working towards?
This problem is one that has been bothering me for a while now, but today I plan on changing all of that. Here’s how:
STEP ONE: Dreaming up the ideal #physed teacher
I want to do what we did at St. George’s School (i.e. backwards designing from a current leader), but do it with the ideal #physed teacher in mind. To do this, I’m going to need a very clear idea of what skills, knowledge, understandings, qualities, and habits make up the ideal #physed teacher.
Here’s where you come in:
I’ve created a Google Sheet where you can help me brainstorm what the ideal #physed teacher would look like. Keeping it as simple as possible, all I’m asking for is for you to help me jot down statements that describe all of the little elements that make up that teacher.
Although I will be contributing to the document as much as possible, I know that, together, we can make this a much more comprehensive list of skills, qualities, knowledge and habits.
As the list fills up, I will start to type up a profile describing this perfect teacher. This will be the ideal I (and you, if you choose to join me) will strive towards.
STEP TWO: Creating the ultimate teacher evaluation rubric
Once the profile is complete and all of the elements have been listed (for now at least… this will most definitely be a living document), I will begin creating a rubric to help myself determine exactly where I am at in terms of my development towards this ideal teacher.
This part will be extremely tedious and I would love for you to be a part of the process. Again, together we can all do a better job on this than if I were to do it on my own. Also, the rubric will be available to anyone and everyone who wants to see where they stand.
This rubric will also exist as an open Google Form that everyone will be able to collaborate on and access whenever they need it.
STEP THREE: Completing a professional self-assessment
This part is going to be the tricky part. Using the rubric, I’m going to assess my own teaching/professionalism as honestly as possible. It’s not easy to pick your own teaching apart and to look at the dark corners of your pedagogy and admit there needs to be improvement in areas you’d really just rather ignore. However, it’s those very areas that, if focused on, will allow you to raise the bar for your own teaching.
To support any claims/verdicts I come up with during this self-assessment, I’m thinking of starting a professional portfolio on Google Drive. I keep portfolios for my students’ learning, why not keep one for myself? I want to be able to see how my curriculum planning, my lesson planning, my assessment, my communication, my instruction delivery changes over time and the only way to do that is to start collecting evidence on myself.
STEP FOUR: Setting professional development goals
Once all of this is done, it will be time for me to set goals for my own professional development. I’m thinking I will start off by focusing on one goal per term (so three per school year) and one for the summer (which will make a total of four goals per year… #mathwhiz).
To make sure I stay focused on my goals and to be able to actually measure my progress, I will be using the “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs) method that Google taught me. Doing so will keep me accountable to myself and will also help me reflect on my professional development at the end of each goal timeline.
STEP FIVE: Seeking professional development
Once I have a clear idea of what my goals are, it will be time to seek out the professional development that I need in order to reach them. This could be anything from asking the #physed community for feedback, to connecting with thought leaders, to attending conferences/webinars and/or reading books/blogs.
Whatever it takes, I want to reach my goals and be the best #physed teacher I can be.
If you would like to be a part of this process, or would like to embark on the same professional development journey as me, feel free to check our and/or add to the following Google Sheets:
Also, you might want to check out The Great Unpacking blog posts to learn more about backwards design, and the “What Google Taught Me About Measuring Success” post to learn more about the OKR system.
Ok, that’s it for now! I want to wrap up by saying that I get that not everyone will agree with this process I am setting up for myself and that not everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of picking apart their own teaching. I want you to know that I’m in no way saying this is the perfect method (I’m not even sure it will work yet!) I just needed to do something because I’m tired of not being the best teacher possible for my students. They deserve the best, and this is the only way I could think of getting myself to a point where I could be that for them.
Thanks for reading and happy teaching!
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com.