Passion through achievement

I talked about ‘Passion through achievement’ at the recent
“Outdoor Connections” conference. My point had been that too often we think that it’s enough just to expose children to an activity for them to be ‘turned on’. I disagreed with this by arguing that we need to enable children to experience success (in their own terms) in an activity, if they are to develop an enduring passion for continued participation. In my opinion kids need to experience
‘mastery’ of an activity or subject (even at a very low level) and then build upon this – in an outdoor education context it might be as simple as managing not to capsize in a canoe; mastering a snowplough turn; finding your way round an orienteering course.

I was reminded of all this on
Wednesday of this week I met
Peter Hill at EdinburghUniversity. In his office I saw a pile of Scottish Physical Education Association (SPEA) journals. As I thumbed through the pile I recalled an article I’d co-written with colleagues (Carole Hall and Alastair Kidd) in 1994 entitled ‘The Earlston Method’.

We worked on the notion of ‘hooking’ children onto physical activity. For us, the ‘hook’ was our attempt to enable children to experience the ‘feeling’ or ‘joy’ an expert performer experiences. If children never get to experience the feeling of success, which would maintain or stimulate greater interest in the activity, then continued engagement is extremely unlikely.We also argued that too often children only catch glimpses of the ‘whole’ activity or ‘big picture’. More frequently they participate in lessons which are nothing more than ‘brightly coloured hoops’ (sometimes even not that brightly coloured). The kids jump through these hoops, rarely understanding or appreciating why they are doing the activity in question.

Does this line of argument have anything to do with the high levels of disengagement in the current secondary school curriculum?

For me, the challenge for the teacher is to provide that big picture and then to work out what the ‘hook’ might be and aim to provide opportunities for every child in the class to experience regular success at their own level.

So what might be some of the ‘hooks’ in history; maths; physics; languages; home economics; computing; geography; craft and design; music; art; religious education?

I intend to explore this line of thinking over the next few weeks