At first sight it might seem that classification of skill is a relatively straightforward topic to teach. And for the most part, you’d be right!
However, as I explain in this blog, there are a few essential steps required in order to ensure students fully understand this topic and are able to successfully tackle any exam question thrown their way.
Often this topic is one of the first to be taught on an AS or A level PE course and that is because its content is relatively straightforward to grasp and many students will have come across classification of skill of some kind if they have studied GCSE PE previously.
However, to ensure thorough subject knowledge for your students and to give them the best possible chance of performing well in exam questions there are a few pitfalls that need to be avoided and some skills which are often overlooked that need to be developed.
Follow these essential steps to teach classification of skill successfully:
#1. Excellent subject knowledge – your subject knowledge. As with every topic, before you start teaching classification of skill you need to ensure your subject knowledge is tip top and that you know your way around every part of it so that you are confident in your ability to pass on this knowledge to your students and to ask them the right questions to see where the gaps in their knowledge lie.
With in-depth subject knowledge you also have an understanding and appreciation of the bigger picture of this topic and you can tailor your teaching accordingly. (Click to Tweet).
#2. Teach and test definitions and key terms – to ensure your students gain valuable marks in their exams. There’s a lot of information for your students to know in this topic and it is essential that their learning is structured. That’s why I recommend that you are very specific and logical with the way in which you teach the definitions of key terms and concepts such as a ‘movement skill’, ‘classification’ and ‘continuum’, as well as the meanings of each of the different types of skill classifications, (e.g. discrete skill and complex skill).
Exam questions on this topic do not often carry a high value i.e. they may be out of two or four marks only. Therefore it is important that your students are able to give specific, precise answers using the correct terminology to these types of questions rather than giving ‘woolly’ responses which will gain no credit (Click to Tweet) and will often be marked as ‘TV’, (which means too vague).
As well as teaching students the meaning of key concepts such as ‘externally-paced skill’, it is important that you instil in your students the importance of being able to give practical examples to each of these concepts from the very start of their learning, (see essential step #5 for more on this).
Tip: Worksheets with the key concept or terms in the left hand column and the definition or meaning in the right hand column are a simple but highly effective way of structuring learning for this topic. Test or quiz your students often on these key concepts and terms.
Ensure your students have plenty of practice in answering these exam style questions which are marked (according to the rigours of the mark scheme and the exam board) and that you give your students the feedback they need in order to improve and make progress.
Additionally, make use of some of the excellent online digital flashcard websites or apps that are available for free. I favour Quizlet and make use of all of its functionality with my students, but especially the test feature.
Click the link for free access to my PE Tutor class on Quizlet where you’ll get unlimited access to all of the flashcard sets I’ve ever created.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make effective use of Quizlet for teaching and learning, enrol on my free online course here.
#3. Teach the names of the continua (& what they mean) – to avoid potential pitfalls! It’s all well and good your students knowing the different types of skills e.g. gross and fine, open and closed, and self paced and externally paced, and what they mean, however there have been a number of times when students have come unstuck when they have been asked an exam question which has included the name of a continuum which they were not familiar with and as a result they were not able to access the question. OCR do this often!
Take a look at this past paper question:
Movement skills can be classified in a number of ways. Explain what is meant by the continuity classification.
Students may well have a good understanding of what a discrete skill is, what a serial skill is and what a continuous skill is and they may well be able to give good practical examples of each of these. However, if they are not familiar with the term continuity continuum and they do not know what that means they would have difficulty in accessing this question and responding successful.
Therefore it is important (essential) that you teach the names of each of the continua to students and that they know which skill classifications correspond to each name. (Click to Tweet).
If you teach OCR A Level PE, here’s a reminder of the names of each of the continua:
- the difficulty continuum (including simple & complex skills)
- the environmental influence continuum (including open & closed skills)
- the pacing continuum (including self-paced & externally paced skills)
- the muscular involvement continuum (including gross & fine skills)
- the continuity continuum (including discrete, serial & continuous skills)
- the organisation continuum (including high organisation & low organisation skills)
#4. Justification – one of the key themes that I have seen running through examiners’ reports is that students tend to have a reasonably good understanding of the different types of skill classification but in their written responses in exams they tend to be less good at justifying the placement of these skills on any given continuum.
Therefore it is absolutely vital that you teach your students the importance of justifying the placement of each skill on a continuum. (Click to Tweet). Make sure that your students understand what ‘justification’ and ‘to justify’ means. (Click to Tweet).
This is a rather simple concept and forgive me for teaching you to suck eggs, but it is one which is often overlooked by teachers who assume their students know and understand what these words mean. However, experience tells me that this is not the case. So ensure that your students know what justification means and that they have plenty of practice in justifying and giving reasons for the placement of skills on a continuum.
Tip: A very useful and simple tip is to ensure that students use the word ‘because’ in every response they make to these kinds of questions. I know, it’s too obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students don’t do this!!
It is also important to make sure that students are aware of the way in which some questions are structured and that often the second part of a question on classification of skill is the area that focuses on the justification of the placement of the skill on a continuum. Far too often students either do not respond to this part of the question or fail to answer it correctly.
The importance of being able to justify should not be underestimated!
#5. Practical examples – ensure that your students give practical examples all the time. I have written about the importance of exam technique and giving practical examples in another blog and this point cannot be overemphasised!!
Frequently remind your students that they are studying physical education and sport and as such they need to be able to provide practical examples from sport and physical activity in all instances. The quicker they get into the habit of doing this, the better! (Click to Tweet).
For example, usually it is not enough just to write about the theory of gross and fine skills (e.g. gross skills involve large muscle movements and fine skills involves small muscle movements) without giving a practical example to support their response.
Students need to be able to show the examiner that they can apply their theory to practical examples. For most exam boards this is AO2 (practical application) and students will lose relatively easy marks if they don’t / can’t give practical examples.
Tip: A very useful and simple tip is to ensure that students use the phrase ‘for example’, or ‘e.g.’ in every response they make to these kinds of questions. I know, again, it’s too obvious, right? So obvious, that we often assume our students know to do this, without us explicitly telling them to do it. Don’t overlook this. Put an A3 piece of paper or large poster on the classroom wall that all of your students can see with ‘for example’ in large, bold letters on it and refer to it often in your teaching.
Additionally coach your students to write the name of the sport in which the skill is executed at the start of their response, for example, ‘In hockey, a hit would be a gross skill because large muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps and deltoids are used to execute this rapid, explosive action.’ But make sure students know that simply stating the name of a sport is not the same as giving an example of a given skill (Click to Tweet) and as such they would be unlikely to gain marks for this.
#6. Quiz – often! – the more we know about neuroscience and learning the more it is apparent that the more frequently we review and revisit concepts and topics, the more likelihood there is that we will remember them. If you are familiar with the concepts of interleaving and spaced retrieval you know this already.
Make use of online digital quiz applications, such as Socrative, to frequently give your students low stakes quizzes. (Click to Tweet).
Not only do the students enjoy doing these quizzes, sites such as Socrative provide valuable feedback for you to act upon (in real time, if necessary) to see where your students’ understanding is and how you need to adapt your teaching accordingly.
If you teach OCR A level PE, here’s the code to a ready made 25 question multiple choice and true / false quiz on classification of skills. If you teach another exam board, that’s not a problem, you can edit the quiz in Socrative to make it exam board specific.
Simply copy the code and paste it into Socrative.
Socrative is a great tool for responsive teaching! To learn more about how to use Socrative effectively, enrol on my free course here.
And if you’re already familiar with using this great resource, here’s a direct link to the Socrative website.
Recap: 6 Essential steps to teach classification of skill successfully
#1 ~ Excellent subject knowledge
#2 ~ Teach and test definitions and key terms (often)
#3 ~ Teach the names of the continua (& what they mean)
#4 ~ Justification
#5 ~ Practical examples
#6 ~ Quiz – often
I hope you find this post useful. I’d love to hear your feedback about it and your experiences of teaching this topic.
Let’s talk about it in the comments below.