Loyang View Secondary School

AN INQUIRY INTO TEACHING OF TABLE TENNIS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC


An Inquiry into the Teaching of Table Tennis during COVID-19 Pandemic.

Foreword

The year 2020 will be remembered as the coronavirus infected the entire globe, causing drastic changes in the way people work, live and play. Singapore was not spared from the impact. 

In school, various Safe Management Measures (SMM) such as regular taking of temperature, practising good personal hygiene, wipe-down of facilities, designated venue for meals, staggering of recess and dismissal time were implemented. Home-Based Learning (HBL) was also introduced during the Circuit Breaker (CB) and phase one of post CB. Online meetings become the new norm and Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) were replaced by virtual CCA sessions.

For the teaching of Physical Education (PE) when schools restarted in June after CB, a guide on the delivery of PE lessons was implemented by Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch (PSOEB). Contact sports were replaced by 1v1 Net-barrier games, wearing of mask is determined by the intensity of the physical activities, safe-distancing of at least 2 metres during running are imposed, sharing of equipment are disallowed and lastly, all used equipment must be disinfected at the end of every PE lesson.  

Teaching of table tennis as one of chosen six physical activities among secondary schools in Singapore is relatively uncommon as compared to other net barrier games such as badminton and volleyball due to relatively limited resources in schools.  

This presentation accounts the humble attempt by three fellow physical educators with mixed competencies in table tennis deliberated, redesigned and enacted the table tennis unit plan, based on current Physical Education syllabus (2014), Singapore Teaching Practice (STP) and Differentiated Instructions (DI), aiming to cater to the students based of their readiness and learning profile. They attempted to incorporate the various modes of feedback practices, with inclusion of video-viewing for self, peer and teacher’s assessment. These were carried out based on the current guidelines for schools on delivery of physical education lessons during the current COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The team also attempted the current blended physical education approach with practical sessions in school complemented and supplemented with ongoing online assignments via Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS) and other Information and Communication Technology tools.  

Prior to the start of the module, the equipment were labelled and venues (Indoor Sports Hall, multi-purpose Hall, and dance studio with modified equipment) were purposefully demarcated for safe management measures (SMM).    

We hope through this presentation, we are able to touch base with fellow physical educators who are currently teaching table tennis or keen to teach table tennis in future to share ideas, resources and hopefully professionally develop one another in teaching table tennis to further enhance the existing table tennis teaching resources. 
  

SMM and additional Precautionary Measures (a) Designated seating and practising tables, (b) 1-metre Social Distancing, (c) Net-Barrier Games & (d) Disinfected equipment ready for next lesson.

Aligned to the prevailing SMM guidelines and the additional precautionary measures, the PE department from Loyang View Secondary School (LVSS) made adjustment to revamp the existing PE curriculum and introduced the table tennis module to all Secondary Two students. 

An Inquiry Approach to Teaching Table Tennis

To ensure the table tennis module was carried out in a meaningful and enjoyable manner, the team adopted an inquiry-based approach under the guidance of the senior teacher, Mr Lee Hock Joo. 

Aligned with STP Singapore Curriculum Philosophy, we believe that every child wants to and can learn as long as we focus on catering to the students’ learning needs when designing and sequencing relevant learning experiences.

The team involved in the selection of learning experiences for this table tennis module based on students’ learning profile captured in pre-module student survey and observed competencies demonstrated by students in the initial lessons. We reviewed these learning experiences with good samples of standard (videos, rubrics, checklist, exemplars) gathered among the department members. We aligned positive feedback practices, consistent in our school’s PE curriculum, and determine the attainment of the learning outcomes via the observed students’ performances in practice tasks and authentic games during lessons. Collaborative learning (CL), differentiated instructions (DI), online learning (OL) and the use of Information & Communication technology (ICT) tools were adopted to better cater to students’ learning.

Students’ progress was video-recorded for assessment feedback purposes during the game module. A post-module student’s survey was also administered for feedback and review of the game module. A few students were also selected to be interviewed for their post-module feedback for review and evaluation of the module.   

Customized table tennis lessons were discussed and trialed among PE teachers, prior to actual lessons. Skills training among PE teachers were carried out to level up individual teacher’s competencies and deliverance. Pre-recorded demo videos on skill enhancement by Senior Teacher and common errors were shared among PE teachers. Paired teaching approach were adopted whenever possible for lesson observations and feedbacks for continual improvement. 

Challenges and Ways to Overcome These Challenges

Prior to the start of the Table Tennis module, the PE team discussed on the possible challenges which they anticipated based on the guidelines for teaching of PE in schools during post CB period.

Lack of Resources

To ensure the classes have sufficient table tennis bats and balls, immediate bulk purchase was made prior to the start of the module. These equipment were labelled with individualized number to ensure there was no sharing of equipment. Additional tables were also purchased to ensure table tennis lessons could be conducted at 2 venues simultaneously at the same time.

Lack of Venues

Our school hall and the indoor sports hall at level 2 were the only PE venues available to conduct the table Tennis module during this period.  To support the teaching of table tennis, our dance studio was innovatively transformed into an alternative venue for table tennis lessons, using classroom tables as shown below. 


Dance Studio was transformed into an alternative venue for the teaching of table tennis.

Timetable Issue

On every Monday, three secondary two classes had PE lessons with only two pre-assigned PE venues available (Indoor Sports Hall Level 1 was utilized as make-shift canteen due to school’s SMM). To deal with this timetabling issue, these classes had rotated weekly for practical table tennis lessons in designated PE venues with dance studio being utilized as the alternative venue.  

Diverse Competencies of Teachers

Among the three teachers, one had no prior experience playing or teaching table tennis, one with some experiences and one with Table Tennis Level One coaching qualification

To raise the competencies among the teachers, the team had practices prior to teaching the classes to level up their competencies, guided by the senior teacher. Customized table tennis lessons were discussed and trialed prior to actual lessons. Videos on how and what to teach with common errors to avoid were recorded and shared by senior teacher so that other team members could practice and execute the PE lessons as planned. Paired teaching approach was adopted whenever possible to provide timely observations and feedback for reflection and review the subsequent lesson plans. Skills training are carried out periodically, with using the ball machine which belongs to the Senior Teacher as a value-added enhancement. 


Teacher practising diligently to improve his skills using the ball machine.

Subsequently, the team met weekly to reflect and review how the classes progressed to refine the subsequent lessons to better support students’ development, based on teachers’ observations /evidence of students’ current competencies and learning needs. 

The team also clarified our understanding of effective feedback practices, deliberated and evaluated our current PE scheme of work and lesson plans to incorporate effective feedback practices (teacher, self and peer) as part of assessment for learning in our lessons.


An Inquiry into Teaching of Table Tennis during COVID -19 (Part 1)

Methodology

Catering to Students’ Diverse Needs and Abilities

To better cater to our students’ diverse background and abilities, a pre-module student profile survey was carried out to assess their readiness in PE and prior experience in table tennis before drafting and executing the table tennis lessons. 

Teachers differentiated the content, process and outcome according to the students’ readiness, interest and learning profile.

“Expert teachers often do the equivalent of “playing by ear” when they differentiate instruction … based on readiness level of their students.” (Tomlinson, 2017)

A variety of differentiated activities using goal setting strategies and adjustable targets were planned to cater to the different needs of the students.


Students practising collaboratively using adjustable targets on the wall.

For example, the table tennis tables were purposefully marked out for tiered progression based on students’ competencies during practices and encouraged immediate feedback (self, peers’ or teacher’s).

Online learning such as understanding general table tennis game rules, students’ video submission of practice tasks after viewing YouTube videos and/or pre-recorded demo videos from teachers, assessment feedback by students after evaluated individuals’ performances against the assessment rubrics were carried out to support learning beyond school curriculum time and cater to different learning needs of our students.   

Students’ Level of Engagement and Interest 

Students who are not well-versed in sports are likely to be dis-engaged in physical activities. To arouse their interest and increase their engagement level, purposefully planned practice tasks such as “Ping Pong F1 racing”, round the table rally, wall target challenge and even ball machine training are introduced during the lessons. 

Formative assessment feedback (self, peers’ and teacher’s) were given to the students to reflect and evaluate their own performances against the desired table tennis learning outcomes (LO).  

 


Engaging activities (a) Ping Pong F1 racing, (b) Round the table tally, (c) Wall target challenge & (d) Ball machine training are included. 

Instead of having cohort Sports Carnival with inter-class competitions for the games taught for the year, intra-class competitions among students from the same class were organized to round up the module with authentic games competed.

Assessment Literacy (AL)

Formative assessment feedback strategies were deployed by teachers to help students learn. Students were informed the desired learning outcomes of the table tennis module at the beginning of the game module and they were timely informed of their current competencies based on their performances in the practice tasks and authentic games during PE lessons with formative feedback practices (teacher, self and peer) being incorporated as part of assessment for learning. The teachers strived to engage students with dialogic feedback to level up students’ assessment literacy, instead of feedback as information, ensuring feedback which was useful and understandable by students and provided opportunities for them to act on the feedback given.

Implementation of Table Tennis Module

In implementation of our Table Tennis module, we took reference of the students’ learning profile from the pre-module students’ survey and decided on the sequence of skills and game concepts to teach.

In the pre-module students’ survey, we assessed the percentage of our students’ likelihood to participate in Sports and Games and their prior experience in playing table tennis – while 70.5% (Strongly Agree and Agree) of students are likely to take part in Sports and Games, 72.0% (Strongly Disagree and Disagree) of them had no prior experience in playing table tennis. This data gave the teacher a gauge of what to anticipate when conducting the game module. 

Based to the profile of the students, DI was applied to better cater to the diverse competencies and learning needs among the students.

Collaborative Learning (CL) was used to encourage peer learning to achieve greater success. 

“Cooperative Learning procedures are designed to engage students actively in the 
learning process through inquiry and discussion with their peers in small groups”
(Davidson, N. & Worsham, 1992)  

From self-feed the ball, students proceeded to partner-feeding the ball, whereby the partner would provide feedback on the ready position, bat angle, the follow-through and the ending position of the player executing the return shots.

Online Learning (OL) was utilized to complement and supplement the students learning during practical sessions and beyond curriculum time in schools. Online assignments with video to view, questions to answer and practice tasks to be recorded and submitted via SLS ensured learning continued to take place during HBL and beyond curriculum time in school during post CB period.  

In terms of selection of skills to teach, our team decided to start from backhand drive (topspin) rather than forehand drive (topspin).  The rationale is backhand drive/block is easier to learn than forehand drive as it has more control element in it and the direction of contact with the ball is “square-on”. 

On the other hand, the forehand drive required trunk rotation and the contact point of the ball is from the side. This resulted in a wider range of motion and is harder for beginner to adapt and master. 

The progression is usually from drop and serve, to play over the floor, to open table (dance studio), then to wall and then progress to the actual table with the net. 

Once the students mastered the backhand drive – able to rally at least 5 consecutive balls each, the forehand drive gradually is introduced. 

Eventually, lessons on service will introduce the underspin and sidespin to the students. During these lessons, students are encouraged to “explore” their service using different spins. 

Finally, the module ended with an intra-class competition to wrap up the whole module.  

Please click here for our Table Tennis Game Module


An Inquiry into Teaching of Table Tennis during COVID -19 (Part 2)

Outcomes of Teaching of Table Tennis

At the end of the module, 20% of the students were performing at Beginning level, 68.5% at Developing level, 11% at Achieving level and 0.5% at Exceeding level based on their competencies in authentic game context as described in the Table Tennis assessment rubrics provided by PSOEB PE Unit, with more than 80% of the students making progress in their table tennis   competencies since the beginning to the end of the module.

In addition, the team also conducted a post-Table Tennis module student survey to gather feedback from the students for the following areas:- 

1) Learning of Appropriate skills;
2) Gaining of knowledge;  
3) Application of Learning Outcomes; 
4) Student Level of Enjoyment: 
5) Student Continuity of the Sports in future; and 
6) Recommendation for future PE curriculum. 

From the post-Table Tennis module survey, 88.0 % of the students (Strongly Agree and Agree) learned new skills. 86.0 % (Strongly Agree and Agree) gained knowledge on Table Tennis while 70.0 % were able to apply the learning outcomes.

74.0 % of the students (Strongly Agree and Agree) enjoyed the module with 50.0% of them will continue to play the game. 56.0 % recommended the table tennis module to be included in the future PE curriculum.

Please click here for post-Table Tennis module Survey results.

In maximising the learning of table tennis, a variety of methods and strategies are used. From the survey, the top 5 preference of students in terms of teaching methods/strategies are 

1) Adjustable targets on the wall or on the table; 
2) Marked out zones on the table; 
3) Shadow Practice (Practice the movement without the ball); 
4) Ball Machine Practice; and
5) Make-do classroom tables at dance studio

Conclusion

From the initial data collected via pre-module student profiling survey, we knew that majority of our students (72%) had no prior experience in table tennis. Even for those who had some experience, they were performing at most level one (Beginning) of the assessment rubrics. Thus we introduced everyone with the fundamental table tennis skills while catered to the learning needs of the few who were performing at level two or three (Developing or Achieving) with DI via tiered progression to keep everyone generally engaged. 

Based on students’ performances in authentic games towards the end of the module and the results of the post module student survey, we are delighted that our students had progressed in their competencies in playing table tennis and 74% of them enjoyed the game and half expressed their intent to continue to play in future.

In summary, the LVSS PE team is appreciative of having conducted this table tennis module, offered our students an alternative net barrier game which was previously not offered as our six choices of games taught in our PE curriculum. Although the overall students’ learning outcomes were not as favourable as other games taught in our PE curriculum, we will review and evaluate our selection and deliverance of the learning experiences for this table tennis module so that batches of students can benefit more from us in future. 

Our future challenge is to continue exploring effective feedback practices and tools to improve students’ assessment literacy such as fine-tuning individual or paired checklist, pictorial guides to improve students’ understanding which in turn raising their engagement level and thus the overall performance outcome.


An Inquiry into Teaching of Table Tennis during COVID -19 (Part 3)

Contact Us

Name Email Contact
Mr Wie Chouw Siang (HoD/CCA& PE) wie_chouw_siang@moe.edu.sg
Mr Lee Hock Joo (ST/PE) lee_hock_joo@moe.edu.sg
Mr Iliyasa Ong (PE teacher) ong_lishen_iliyasa@moe.edu.sg

References

Davidson, N. & Worsham, T. (1992). Enhancing Thinking through Cooperative Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ministry of Education, Singapore (2016, September 17). Physical education teaching and learning syllabus. https://www.moe.gov.sg/docs/default-source/document/education/syllabuses/physical-sports-education/files/physical_education_syllabus_2014.pdf

Ministry of Education, Singapore. (2020, May 19). Arrangements for schools and institutes of higher learning at the end of circuit breaker. https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/press-releases/arrangements-for-schools-and-institutes-of-higher-learning-at-the-end-of-circuit-breaker

Ministry of Education Singapore (2020, August 31). The Singapore teaching practice. https://www.moe.gov.sg/about/singapore-teaching-practice

Tomlinson. C. A. (2017). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms. 3rd Edition, ASCD.