PE Challenge 6 – Introduce an element of Group Processing into your teaching

PE Challenge

PE Challenge 6

by @ImSporticus

Over the next 8 weeks, every weekend, I will offer you a challenge for the following week. These challenges will come from other teachers, researchers, academics and coaches and take on different formats. You can try one, try the ones you like, or try them all. The hope is that it will stimulate thought about your practice, your pupils understanding and their learning and potentially change them for the better.

PE Challenge No. 6: Introduce an element of Group Processing into your teaching

This weeks challenge comes from Dr. Ashley Casey, from Loughborough University. He is a researcher in Physical Education, who makes current research accessible to classroom practitioners. I highly recommend following him on Twitter @DrAshCasey and regularly reading his excellent blog

So what is Group Processing?

It is a key element to the Co-operative Learning teaching model for Physical Education. Group processing involves members reflecting on the group’s work and their interactions with each other to clarify and improve efforts to achieve group goals and maintain effective working relationships. Your students are asked to examine how they can work effectively and efficiently together, focusing on the positive behaviours and actions that make them successful as a group.

A simple way of implementing group processing into your lessons to to allow students time to reflect. It is more powerful if you allow students to do this on there own, however to begin with as a teacher you may need to elicit responses through questioning. I recommend you observe a group activity either formally through an observation sheet or my preferred option, informally, making notes on how the individuals of the groups interact with each other.  After observing the different groups you can can assist their conversations with some direct feedback and questions.  Some simple questions you could ask to probe students to reflect are;

What actions did you engage in most and least?
What actions were most  helpful under the circumstances?
What actions would have helped the group work more effectively?
Can you decide on a personal goal to increase your effectiveness and share it with the other group 

The key part of this process is debriefing. Debriefing encourages students to self reflect and then set personal goals designed to improve their effectiveness within the group. It would be most beneficial to use this method over a number of lessons, but I have seen it work equally well as a mid-lesson review to set actions and then a end lesson plenary to see if the actions helped improved the effectiveness of the team. If you use this method regularly, students become more comfortable and skilled at reflecting meaning more in depth questions can be asked and groups can reflect on their use of both task work and team work skills.

Plan for a lesson, or a series of lessons that have group processing embedded into them. You may prefer to use this method with older students or school sports teams. An obvious constraint would be time, short lessons of around 40mins would probably not suit this challenge very well.


Core Physical Education relies heavily on group work which in itself is a challenge. Group work, without careful consideration can lead to students not engaging, putting in effort or allowing others to work for them which is known as social loafing. Also working in groups is something that some children can struggle with emotionally, having at times to forgo their wants and needs for the better of others. Participating in teams to over come a challenge or work together to achieve a goal is part of the daily staple of teaching pedagogy within physical education. However when we put pupils into teams, we tend to treat them like small classes and focus on technical or physical improvements. We never really teach them how to work effectively as individuals in a team.

When we teach Physical Education, we can become overly focused on the ‘physical’ forgetting that our subject can also help with the emotional, social and psychological development of the child as well. Part of our role as a teacher of PE is to promote positive social outcomes and this requires us to provide opportunities where we explicitly teach our students how to work as part of a team and to encourage self-reflection on those outcomes, the activity is the means to which to achieve this.

Group processing, especially if focused around the individuals interactions with the group, can have many benefits. These can range from developing self worth and improving peer relationships to positive impact on group achievement. Whilst social loafing can never be totally eradicated in group work, group processing can reduce it and improve overall group effort. Group processing as said previously is a key element to Co-operative learning, but can be successful as a stand alone approach that has improving social outcomes at its heart.


If you decide to accept the challenge, I would love you to share your thoughts. Did it help your teaching or your pupils learning in anyway? What were the outcomes of the challenge, both positive and negative?

You can either post your response to this blog.

Or on Twitter direct to me at @imsporticus and @PE4Learning

Or on Twitter with the hashtag #pechallenge and I shall collate them.

Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Written by ImSporticus
On the first day in my current school I sat down next to a colleague and began to introduce myself as the new Teacher of PE. She kindly smiled at me, pointed to the opposite side of the common room, and said sweetly ‘I know. The shallow side is over there.’ I’ve been drowning ever since.

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