Improve your BTEC Sport curriculum planning to support learners to achieve higher grades

This guest post was kindly written by Rob Solway. You can follow Rob on Twitter: @robsolway

There are a wealth of strategies to improve the attainment of your learners when delivering BTEC Sport courses, most of which have valid merit and evidence to support why you should ensure they form part of your teaching toolkit. However, with so much emphasis placed on improving teaching and learning we should not allow ourselves to easily forget the impact a well planned curriculum can have on the development of a learners understanding and crucially to allow them the time to develop their skills in tackling assignments.
The first approach I want to discuss is actually a remarkably simple one that we will all be familiar with having been to university.
Moving towards a model where we remove the repetition of content delivery and assessment requires us to take what some see as a leap of faith and to move away from teaching by the units as per the Edexcel specifications. Rather I am going to suggest that we should think about delivering broader themes which cover a range of units or indeed a collection of learning outcomes from many different units. In doing so I am going to also suggest that we will provide our learners with more time and support to develop their skills and crucially the quality of their assignment task.
I am sure you will all be familiar with the fact that much of the BTEC specification actually duplicates the same content in different units. So my question to you is: “Why not assess this content at the same time through one assignment task rather than make the learners do two or more tasks which you then have to assess each one at least once but often twice or more?” Whenever I have discussed this with colleagues I have often heard the response of ‘It would be great if we could do it that but we are not allowed to… are we?’ Well actually yes we are. And what is more Edexcel encourage it as they recognise it is better for the learner and their attainment.
So let me give you an example of how this works.
Last year I was asked to deliver Unit 17: Psychology for Sports Performance to my second years and Unit 13: Leadership in Sport to my first year students. Both of these units require the learners to know factors that affect group dynamics albeit with Unit 13 slanted towards how these factors affect leadership of sports activities and Unit 17 slanted towards the impact on performance in team sports.
To ensure that learners got the most out of this opportunity I set about the creation of an assignment task that allows learners to achieve both sets of criteria without having to complete two different assignment tasks and sit through a repetition of lower level learning. Instead I have combined the time I would have spent teaching and assessing this in two separate units (one delivered in year 1 of the course and the other delivered in year 2). The result has been a 6 week investigation entitled ‘The factors that affect group dynamics in sport and the implications of for leaders and coaches.’ Through their investigation the learners have developed their knowledge of what the different factors are and crucially their understating of how these factors are likely to affect performance of teams as well as how leaders can utilise this knowledge to get the best out of their participants and players.
Similarly, when delivering practical sports units it has been possible to combine elements from Unit 22: Officiating in Sport and Unit 5 Sports Coaching. By delivering a 12 week unit of handball followed by a 12 week unit of basketball I have been able to provide learners with an opportunity to learn the rules and regulations of each sport before applying the rules and regulations as an official during game situations. At the same time learners have been learning the skills, techniques and tactics employed in the sport. As a means of assessing the learners they have then created ‘How to Play the Game’ guides for beginner players.
The practical element of demonstrating skills, techniques and tactics was assessed through the same activity. Learners were encouraged to create video content that was built into the ‘How to play the game’ guides. Examples of the types of videos required were shared through websites such as BBC Sport Academy and YouTube. Learners then used their own mobile phones and tablets to record themselves performing. These videos were then embedded into PowerPoint files which the students later converted to video and uploaded to YouTube or Moodle for assessment.

What have been the key benefits of this approach?

Firstly, learners have had almost twice the amount of time to actually develop their assignment task before submitting for summative assessment. As a result this means they have had at least twice the amount of formative feedback from the teacher. In fact with the elimination of content delivery (partly due to the avoidance of repeated delivery but also through a variety of other teaching strategies such as Flipped Classroom, Triple Impact Marking and Peer Assessment learners have spent far more time actually drafting and redrafting their assignments. Some learners have completed more than 5 drafts!!
The second benefit has been as much for me as it has been the learners. The reduction in the amount of assessment has meant that my time has been better focused on actually planning how to support the learners to develop their work and facilitating that development. This has resulted in me actually doing less summative assessment and ultimately learners requiring less formal submissions to reach or exceed their target grades. Sound like a Win-Win situation? It is!

How can you do this?

Ask your Head of Department or Curriculum Leader if in your next meeting you could map some units. Have an idea of which units you would like to start with but ask the rest of your department what they think would work well together. From there get the scissors out and cut up all the key strands from the assignment criteria of the units you want to blend. Fit them together like a jigsaw and away you go!
Next check the unit content to ensure they complement one another and from there plan a task to meet the criteria.

TopTip – Do not try and map the whole curriculum to begin with. Try it with one or two units and find out what works best for your learners. You might find that this works better for some type of assignments than others.