In 2010, Programme for Active Learning (PAL) was introduced to Primary 1 and 2 students for the purpose of getting them to: –
Basically, PAL aims to promote the all-rounded development of students in five learning domains (cognitive, moral, social, aesthetics and physical) and enable students to cultivate social emotional learning (SEL) competencies.
Schools are given the autonomy to design their unique PAL lessons and develop students’ SEL in two broad areas: –
One of the goals of the PE Syllabus 2014 is to develop students who would display positive personal and social behaviour across different experiences. Besides equipping students with the psychomotor skills and cognitive knowledge, the PE syllabus seeks to strengthen students’ affective domains so that they could develop positive emotions and communicate and collaborate well with others.
The Physical Education Framework, taken from PE Syllabus 2014, pg. 8
The foundation of the PE Framework that moulds the PE Syllabus are the 21st Century Competencies. The MOE framework for 21st Century Competencies and student outcomes (refer to Image 2) articulates the need to inculcate core values, build social and emotional competencies, and develop emerging 21st Century Competencies through students’ learning experiences. Please refer to this link for more details on the 21st Century Competencies.
MOE Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes, taken from PE Syllabus 2014 pg. 9
Both PAL and PE seek to equip students with values and soft skills so that the pupils are more holistically developed. The similarities between PAL and PE are listed in the table below.
|PAL’s Learning Outcomes||What PE Syllabus provides|
|1||Exhibit confidence in what they do and express themselves effectively||Experiences that encourage resilience and perseverance as students learn to take responsibility for their own learning towards improved performance. Successful movement experience contribute to increased self-confidence and a positive self-concept which is important to whole-person development.|
|Exhibit curiosity and positive attitudes to learn||Opportunities to establish emotional and social connections as students collaborate on common goals and overcoming challenging activities. Students can experience a sense of strong communal bonding with others and also a connectedness with the environment as they interlink attitude and value formation with behavioural change.|
|Enjoy group experiences and teamwork||Competitive and collaborative activities for students to develop respect of self and others and also a sense of responsibility towards their own well-being and their peers. The process of winning and losing provides a platform for them to make moral decisions and take actions that demonstrates values of integrity, fair play and sportsmanship. Furthermore, working with individuals from different backgrounds, ethnicity and religions help students to foster cooperation and encourages respect and harmony between them.|
|2||PAL’s Learning Areas||PE’s Learning Areas|
Table 1: Similarities between PAL and PE
|1||Taught in Primary 1 and 2||Taught in all levels|
|2||Taught by QPETs and non-QPETs||Taught by QPETs only|
|3||Focus on soft skills and values||Focus on skills, knowledge and affective domains|
|4||Plenty of discussions, preparations, presentations and reflections.||At least 70% physical active time|
Table 2: Differences between PAL and PE
As Table 1 illustrates, PAL and PE are complementary, particularly in developing students’ SEL competencies. Where they differ primarily is that PE lessons are planned with the psychomotor and cognitive outcomes clearly in mind while the affective outcomes are layered over the physical activities. Therefore, with the right lesson design, and by inducting them to the students early in Primary 1 and 2, PAL can shore up the affective outcomes of the PE Syllabus.
The learning outcomes of our school’s PAL lessons for Sports & Games, Outdoor Education and Dance are adapted from the 6 core values of the 21st Century Competencies as listed in the table below.
|Value||What it means||Exemplars during PE|
|Respect||A person demonstrates respect when he/she believes in his/her own self-worth and the intrinsic worth of all people.||In PE, the student consistently behaves in a respectful manner. He/she puts in maximum effort in all tasks. He/she shows respect towards him/herself, his/her teachers and classmates. He/she values contributions made by others. He/she abides by the rules of the game.|
|Responsibility||A person who is responsible recognises that he/she has a duty to himself, his/her family, community, nation and the world, and fulfils his/her responsibilities with love and commitment.||In PE, the student understands the responsibilities of being a member of the group, class and school. He/she takes the initiative and contributes readily to the group, class and school. He/she is willing to learn from his/her mistakes. He/she also requires little or no supervision by the teacher in fulfilling his/her responsibilities.|
|Resilience||A person who is resilient has emotional strength and perseveres in the face of challenges. He/she manifests courage, optimism, adaptability and resourcefulness.||In PE, the student consistently perseveres to achieve his/her personal best. He/she adapts to demands and challenges in new and/or unfamiliar contexts. He/she perseveres in spite of setbacks and difficulties.|
|Integrity||A person of integrity upholds ethical principles and has moral courage to stand up for what is right.||In PE, the student has strong moral values that consistently guide his/her decisions and actions. He/she makes ethical decisions when handling disagreements. He/she stands up for what is right.|
|Care||A person who is caring acts with kindness and compassion. He/she contributes to the betterment of the community and the world.||In PE, the student demonstrates consideration and empathy for others. He/she is considerate to them. He/she puts others’ needs before his/her own. He/she takes the initiative to help them.|
|Harmony||A person who values harmony seeks inner happiness and promotes social cohesion. He/she appreciates the unity and diversity of a multi-cultural society.||In PE, the student understands the importance of teamwork and encourages it. He/she consistently values the contribution of his/her peers and is able to make them feel good about themselves.|
Table 3: The 6 Core Values in the 21st Century Competencies of the PE Syllabus 2014
In the first phase of our PAL journey, the Sports & Games, Outdoor Education and Dance modules were taught by qualified PE teachers (QPETS). Now, our PAL lessons are also conducted by non-QPETs. Our lessons were designed in such a way that non-QPETs can deliver them effectively so that students can demonstrate individually and with others, the physical skills, practices and values to enjoy a lifetime of active and healthy living. These lessons do not require the teachers to have any dance or sports background.
As mentioned earlier, our PAL lesson outcomes are derived from the core values of the 21st Century Competencies. PAL teachers know that the products of the lessons, be it a dance item, a modified game or an outdoor activity, are merely conduits to draw out the soft skills and SEL competencies outcomes of the lessons. PAL teachers engage students in small groups and whole class discussions and reflections. Our PAL teachers recognise “teachable moments” and ask questions that prompt reflection. These continuous exchange between students’ immediate experiences and their personal reflections in order to reassess previously held beliefs and influence future experiences and behaviour (Dewey, 1938) As such, PAL teachers help children make meaning out of their experiences in relation to their social world.
Our lesson plans include many reflective questions that the teachers could use to facilitate discussions and students’ reflections, depending on the “teachable moments”. We have included examples of the learning outcomes and reflective questions below.
Our dance lessons typically require groups to discuss, plan, practise and perform. The activities they have to do are relatively simple and short. The complexity comes when they have to work in groups with members who have different abilities, ideas and confidence levels. Please refer to the link for 2 examples of our PAL Dance lessons.
For our school’s PAL Sports & Games, in every lesson, we give groups a task to complete. Typically, we will get students to discuss, design, play and make improvements to their games. For example, in hopscotch, students are given a masking tape to draw out their own hopscotch court. They will have to discuss, come up with their own rules and work together to complete the hopscotch court before playing.
A group of students with their own Hopscotch
In line with the PE syllabus, we also have activities that require students to be in uneven settings, like 2 v 1 or 3 v 1. We also have activities that require students to be the referee or official when their group members are playing. Please refer to the link for the first activity of our PAL Sports & Games lesson.
Our school does not have a nearby park. Our lessons are conducted within the school compound, particularly at our garden that has a small trail in it. Please refer to the link for an example of a PAL Outdoor Education lesson.
Every school has already planned and designed their own PAL lessons. The most important ingredient of a successful PAL lesson is the teacher who is conducting it. The same lesson with the exact same activities would achieve completely different outcomes when conducted by different teachers.
With the list of reflective questions listed in the lesson plans, PAL teachers are able to identify ‘teachable moments’ and quickly do a small group or whole classroom discussion and reflection to address these moments. Undeniably, the first few lessons of PAL will be littered with discussions and reflections, but as time passes, things do improve considerably. In fact, teachers who teach PE from Primary 3 to 6 notice that students: –
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Kappa Delta Pi
Ministry of Education (2016, September 17). Physical education teaching and learning syllabus.