The World Game

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I am sitting in a room. On the screen there are a clear set of Learning Intentions. I have my homework on the table, and my instructor is detailing the key changes to the curriculum. The presentation is alive with examples, the changes are adopted across the board and make perfect sense.

Everyone in the room is ready to implement. The lessons are clear, structured, scaffolded and effectively find student’s levels and build from there.

I am not, however, sitting in a school. In fact this exceptional lesson plan and curriculum come from Football Federation Australia (FFA) and my learning is based first in the game of soccer.

This year I have been heavily involved with the local soccer club, and the experience has been rewarding. First of all, you hear some interesting names. It seems every team has a player named ‘Shanky’ and, more occasionally, a huge man named ‘Drago’.

Secondly it gives me a much relished opportunity to collaborate on a project outside of school. This is in keeping with a fantastic, if confronting, piece of advice I was given by a man named ‘Clockman Jon’. “…you teachers need to make friends with other people, real people, people who aren’t teachers!” While I don’t agree that teachers aren’t real people, it is important to realise there is education happening outside of our staff room bubble.

As a part of this soccer experience I attended a coaching and game training course, which featured a lesson in Australia’s progress on the world stage over the past decade. This session, as well as detailing much needed soccer training for my club, was a surprising, and excellent resource for the classroom.

In recent history the FFA scrapped the ‘Australian’ approach to soccer entirely, and built a new curriculum from the ground up. They collaborated with a number of educators, and undertook observations of coaching and training at the highest levels.

Their learning came from a number of other countries with a global reputation for excellent soccer. Out of this process was born the Australian Football Curriculum, and it is good. Really good.

Firstly, it teaches the value of consistency and transition between levels of soccer skill learning, from the very first players, through to competitive senior teams much like transitions through skills in an English classroom.

Secondly, it teaches differentiated training, and the skill of identifying the appropriate skill level for different players. It clearly articulates exactly how to become competent in the skill. Then, it goes further to illustrate the next steps for the players and the team.

As teachers, this is exactly where we should be focusing our energy. This use of a player’s prior knowledge to inform learning is identical to our need for identifying student’s levels and catering teaching accordingly.

Finally, the Football curriculum teaches coaches and players alike to adopt the principle of ‘C.H.A.N.G.E.I.T’, an acronym designed to extend or lower skill teaching to a level that players understand, and, most importantly, which is effective.

Even if you aren’t a fan of soccer, and even if you aren’t interested in Football curriculum, I want to leave you with two things:

The first is that the principle of ‘C.H.A.N.G.E.I.T’ is absolutely true for your teaching. If a student doesn’t understand what you are saying, you need to alter the teaching process.

The second is that, although soccer is ‘The World Game’ the ‘real’ world game is education, and we are all playing.

Students, teachers, and even bystanders, can always keep learning what the rules are, how to apply them, and how to change things if they aren’t working. That way we can all keep kicking goals.

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