NZPETeachercast Episode 4: Contextualised courses at Heretaunga College

Excited to welcome Matt Lambert from Heretaunga College to the podcast. We have a great chat about how his department are meeting the needs of his learners through the use of contextualised courses.

Matt also helps run the PE Gear Shed Facebook page, make sure you check it out and hit the like button! While you’re at it, don’t forget to leave a podcast review on iTunes, i’d really appreciate it.

Music by Bensound.

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Episode 4- Contextualised courses at Heretaunga College
Duration: [00:24:55]
Carl Condliffe: To all NZ teachers welcome back to what's always my favorite term of the year, better whether, seniors going after a few weeks and plenty of time to reflect on the year and to start thinking about what next year will bring. For our international listeners I hope wherever you are in your school year that things are going well and shaping up nicely as we move towards Christmas. Today we're speaking with Matt Lambert from Heretaunga College here in Wellington. I'm loving his approach to course creation and development which we're going to spend most of the episode talking about. I'm going to call this episode "An Authentic PE Experience." Our seminar room sits about our main gym and a class rocked up to do some PE halfway through the interview so you'll hear them throughout and it wouldn't be a NZ PE Teachercast without a few planes taking off either, so there's to look forward to as well. I hope you enjoy today's episode.
You're listening to the NZ PE Teachercast! A podcast sharing some of the inspirational stories from amazing health and physical education teachers.
Today's episode is sponsored by My Study Series, an online learning platform by New Zealand PE teachers for New Zealand PE teachers and their students. Check it out now at
Kia Ora everyone I'd like to welcome Matt Lambert head of physical education and health at Heretaunga College. This is my first time meeting Matt but I've heard his name brought up on many occasions particularly around two areas, his exceptional use of technology in PE and also the amazing weights room they have at Heretaunga College which from my understanding was in a way self-funded
and they did it in a fairly clever way. So we're going to hear a little bit more about some of those things. Matt, welcome to the podcast.
Matt Lambert: Thanks for having me.
Carl Condliffe: Now before we get onto the topic of this podcast which is these contextual courses that you're running can you tell us a little bit about your teaching experience, your school and maybe something about the area of Heretaunga Upper Hutt.
Matt Lambert: Alright, I've been teaching for ten years, so my 11th year now. I've been doing all of that at Heretaunga College, so I started there in 2006. Heretaunga College is decile six, we have a role of around about 720 students, we're coed school, we're 50-50 split pretty much boys and girls, we've got 20% Maori students, a little bit less about 5%, just under, of Pacifica, about 30-35% of our students go onto university
when they leave. Upper Hutt community as a whole is quite a sort of working class environment and yeah very few of our parents have any qualifications outside of school. In 2013 we opened up our new modern learning environment, the government spent a fair bit of money on a refurb for us and that has a lot of shared learning, lots of glass so teachers can't hide, and yeah it's made people change their pedagogy and the way that teach.
Carl Condliffe: So you've been there ten years? You must enjoy it there.
Matt Lambert: Yes and no. I mean I've seen a lot of really good stuff and a lot of really bad stuff, but I do enjoy probably more so the staff of everything else and yeah the kids are good too. Yeah, every school has their bad eggs but the majority of our kids are really great. I do enjoy the community.
Carl Condliffe: How many staff members in your department?
Matt Lambert: Currently we have six.
Carl Condliffe: Six, any females?
Matt Lambert: Yeah we have two females.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah, cool. So we're here to talk these contextual courses which kick in if you're at level two and three. But can you first describe to us what PE at level one looks like for your students? Just because I've seen how cool the stuff is that you're doing at level two and three. So I don't want to see feel plain and boring after being blown away by that. So if you could just describe level one so we feel all normal compared to what you're doing.
Matt Lambert: Yeah at level one we offer a range of standards which is depending on the class and its students. So no achievement is a must. Basically there the teacher evolves that course around the students. We use student voice and ability as well as I guess what the teacher is able to do as well to come with that course itself. So for example if their teacher
feels as though the students aren't up to 1.2 then they won't put that in, in the course. So that's clear, simple as that basically. It's more traditional compared to other courses and it's only between 14 and 18 credits, yeah.
Carl Condliffe: Well I think that that approach of quality over quantity I think that's really important I that's, I think it’s so cool that you're able to do that and you have the support of your school and your principal to be able to do that because students, well we've sort of done the research about student well-being, they're just struggling and they're battling and they're burdened by assessment and being able to offer less credits is just so beneficial to them.
Now I said this via email to you because I hadn't heard of it before, but what on earth is a contextualized course?
Matt Lambert: Basically the board and the senior management said to all of our staff we want to make some changes to try to lift our achievement
in the senior school. We'd seen other schools trying various things like extended learning spells except we wanted to do something a little bit different. So we decided to go down a contextual course line which is basically where you've got, well our context in PE is the use of sport as a vehicle to try to teach our curriculum, so other departments jumped on with that as well. So for example we have a massive sport class, an emerge with sport but there's also image and beauty and make up, there's master construction. We have a school of hospitality as well which is basically, yeah, everyone's got almost like an occupation or a, yeah, an area like that where that short shapes what that course is all about. We still have your traditional, sort of more academic if you like subjects too like your Shakespearean English for those students who are really into that. So for
in PE where we have a course based around people who are wanting to be personal trainers for example.
Carl Condliffe: And so, you mentioned to me that you've got, there's your three courses at level two could you just break those down a little bit and you've got these cool names for them and just what those look like?
Matt Lambert: Yeah so we do, we've three courses at level two and three. The one is a unit standards based course, it's called Do You Even Lift and that's all based around students learning safety and etiquette as well as technique within a gym environment. They also learn stretches. Now the course called Better Never Stops which is where the students focus on their own sport.
Carl Condliffe: Wait, I'm sorry to interrupt, when you've got these Better Never Stops and Do You Even Lift, is that course known as 2 BNS?
Matt Lambert: Yeah BNS.
Carl Condliffe: And it's coded that in your course choice booklet?
Matt Lambert: Yeah BNS, BNS QA2 and
DYE 202 or 303, yup. And yeah in BNS they focus on their own sport so they do biomechanical analysis of a skill from their own sport, they do training programs for their own sport which last effectively the whole year so that you can periodization etc. as well rather than just shorter training programs. They get assessed on their ability in their own sport as well and at level two they look at [00:08:26] (unclear) and the social responsibility to model so try to get them into a good routine and good, yeah, I guess that whole thing about being self-motivated but also helping others as well. At level three they do the strategies to improve, assessment 3.9 to help towards their own support. We also have Beyond the Field, both level two and three.
Carl Condliffe: BTF?
Matt Lambert: Yup BTF which is all based around sociology of sport, so why and how we and others participate in the event or issue and it's
effect on self, others in society and also coaching where we go out and coach a local primary school, run a tournament for them or we will work with our living resource center which is our students with cognitive and physical disabilities and they will try to get them physically active and try to teach them how to be so for life-long well-being.
Carl Condliffe: Cool that sounds, I really love, in our department at the moment we're talking about the benefit of renaming our course because we battle with these perceptions of what PE is. So we're thinking about maybe getting away from that name PE because with it comes a whole lot of different thoughts and assumptions around what we do as teachers and what our student experience and we want to get away from that, those assumptions and we're thinking about sports science, naming it that or other names that we've been floating. But
that's just a name and I think what you're doing here is, you've got these funky names that are actually quite appealing probably to the kids as much as they are me to but you've also restructured it in a way that you're providing these fantastic courses. Honestly when I read it I was blown away by it, so I think you and your department ought to be commended for what you're doing because it makes it authentic, it makes it really meaningful. I am interested though, I'll come back to this next question, but what's the make-up of each course? Does a BNS course attract a significantly different student then say a BTF course and stuff like that?
Matt Lambert: Initially for DYE for example it was predominately males but one thing that underlies all of our courses is the sociocultural elements and the assumptions that come along I guess our whole subject as whole. So we within DYE we look at things like
body image issues and the assumptions that girls shouldn't try and lift weights etc. So since we've been going into that sort of depth it's really brought into, well brought a lot more females into that course and in the first year for that course, yeah and me personally I only had three girls in that course of 18 and this year it's about half and half. And yeah I think, even that's the same with our memberships for the gym too, female numbers have gone up. I found the girls are actually much better at learning the correct technique, they're not ego--
Carl Condliffe: It's their egos.
Matt Lambert: Yeah, no ego lifting going on. They don't mind starting off with an empty bar and therefore they get the technique spot on. For BNS we've got all types of athletes as well, you've got your traditional sports, your basketball, netball, hockey, etc. represented. I've got a few martial artists in there as well, so taekwondo, karate, a few skiers, mountain bikers, a few athletics students. I think the main issue for them is being that I've had to write marking criteria
for a few. So last year I wrote the marking criteria for level three rugby and for softball which was crazy to me that there wasn't a marking criteria for those which is, yeah. Which is, yeah that's allowed students who don't consider themselves to be that athletic to be able to come in. Yeah, I had a lot of international students who play badminton for example who don't consider themselves themselves to be athletes, they're in there working on their badminton and it's helped them socially as well. We've had other students show in interest, darts players, cheerleaders, etc. So I'm midway through writing a cheerleading marking criteria which is quite interesting.
Carl Condliffe: I think you should, I really think you should make some exemplars of you doing cheerleading, I think that would be great. Is there, particularly for the BNS course is there a selection process or do you have to be exceptional at your sport to get into that or do you just--?
Matt Lambert: No, not all. We didn't have prerequisites for any of our
courses when first opened them up. The only one that we did have was that students have to be playing an approved sport for school or club because that's their whole, that's the whole context is them improving in that sport. So if they don't have a sport focus for them to improve in, a goal if you like then it's not going to work. So yeah, a lot of them do play for club and for school, some of them only play club, some only go to one actual event a year, one of the pair the leg does [00:13:35] (?) yeah he only goes to one event and that's same with mountain biking as well.
Carl Condliffe: Has this approach, how long have you been doing it for?
Matt Lambert: We just, yeah, finishing up our second year.
Carl Condliffe: Has it improved your academic results?
Matt Lambert: In the first year our results actually declined from our previous five year trend.
Carl Condliffe: You'd expect that though wouldn't you, getting used to the new system and
new approach?
Matt Lambert: Yeah we run PMI's as a department and just go through after each standard and kind of question or results and why and what we could do better etc., etc. and after reading all of those I put down to a couple of factors and the first one was that we were teaching a lot of standards that we hadn't taught before, particularly the sociocultural based standards.
Carl Condliffe: They're the ones we tend, phys eders tend to avoid though.
Matt Lambert: Yeah, yeah that's right. We really came to try to incorporate those as much as possible and yeah but particularly so now we're sort of filtering that down into a junior program as well and yeah, so that was a little bit more difficult. I was able to get quite a bit of help from people to see what they were doing as well and, yeah, I guess the other reason was because we had dropped all prerequisites that a few of our deans were seeing as a bit of a dumping ground and yeah the students were
a bit of a battle just even to get them to bring their gear let alone to be involved and usually for us at a senior level that's just never the case. So we had to bring a few policies around that sort of thing and we've got prerequisites now for next year. I went through interestingly enough and took those students out who are considered who had been dumped and yeah the results went back up to where they would typically be and we would expect them to be, minus one or two percent basically which I would say again would be based around those sociocultural standards that weren't as familiar with. But now, yeah I'm feeling like yeah we're pretty good with those.
Carl Condliffe: Definitely a common issue at all schools I think is that dumping ground mentality around phys ed which is a shame. To be able to run these contextualized courses you obviously need a well-resourced department particular in terms of that Do You Even Lift
course in terms of weight training. So can you tell a bit about how you managed this and how you go about providing I guess what standards you assess and stuff like that just briefly.
Matt Lambert: Yeah, so initially we did student voice etc and that's how we came up with our courses was based around students wanting to learn how to lift, they wanted to learn how to be healthy for life. They wanted to learn about couching and all the stuff behind the scenes. So that's where the course is coming from and then when the kids did subject selection we were blown away by how many kids had shown interest and we realized heck we don't actually have enough space, we don't have the resources, the physical resource to be able to cope for it. So fortunately our principal has a bit of fetish with hiring PE staff and not putting them in that department so we had a few in the foods department and we had a few in social sciences as well so we were able to pull in them so we can help man it. I was also lucky
enough to have a couple of people in the department who have personal training backgrounds so we were about get accreditation to teach a few of those standards but we needed the equipment. So my assistant actually, Max Pearson and I, we got together, we made a wish list of what we needed and we got quotes from a few places and put together a proposal and basically that included how much students would need to pay per year on a lease to own agreement for that equipment and figured out the kids, if they paid 100 bucks each we would need 75 members for each year for five years and then that would cover it. So currently we have over 130 members which includes staff, students, all boys and girls of the school, parents and other members of the community who have a link to the college and yeah it's quite handy I have this electrician who's a parent and he comes in and fixes the lights for us and installs televisions and
stuff and he gets a free membership, so it helps and that sort of thing so it doesn't eat into my budget.
Carl Condliffe: I think that approach just amazing me that I don't think you tend to see, well in my experiences anyway that seems to always be well if you can't afford it out of your budget then we're not getting it and you've obviously had that support from your principal to come up with this proposal that he's allowed you go and lease to own this stuff with that four or that, I guess that vision that it can be paid off and it can actually bring in revenue once it's paid off and the way you're doing it, that's not too far off happening so you're going to have not only this fantastic resource or facility you're going to have the revenue, extra revenue that it brings you that just get pumped straight back into the students. So I think that's, I think you've done a really good job about that.
You were telling me about, I mean we've been talking the sociocultural factors that we, that are so important in
PE and getting them across. You told me a really cool story earlier about a girl who's a member of your weights club or the gym and her father. You want to just tell our listeners about that?
Matt Lambert: Yeah, so we have this student who she was, last year she was level one and she was learning how to lift and she joined up the gym and was loving it and her father said he wanted to spend a little bit more time with her so he decided he was going to start coming to the gym with her. So they were training together, it was really cool to see. But he hadn't lifted for a while so his technique was a little bit rusty and it was really cool to actually see her to be able to critic him and to help out and particularly on his squat technique. I remember one day seeing him trying to load up the bar because he was a little bit embarrassed that she might be able to squat more than him so she just took the weights off and got his technique sort of first before anything else.
So it's been really cool to actually see them in there together and talking to her mom as well. She says that she's quite of the jealous that they get to spend together and the gentleman even he actually injured himself and he was still in there helping her out and spotting her and stuff like that, so they were still able to share their time.
Carl Condliffe: So not only has this facility had a positive effect on your students within the school and the approaches that they can have to their learning, it's also having this, I guess, community effect or this positive effect on the community that they can come in and use the facility and bond with their family or learn a little bit more about being physically active and the benefits of that. So cool, I think just awesome what you're doing. You also manage, I think this is reasonably new but on Facebook the PE Gear Shed, can you tell us a little bit about that and I guess what I want to know is what your, why you
came about launching that page and what you want from it?
Matt Lambert: Yeah, sure. Myself and a couple other people were talking about the need for networking and for offering cheap and easy ways of professional development. Yeah, thought that a lot of PE teachers don't necessarily share what they do because they're a little bit, a little bit funny about being criticized or being judged by others and so we thought that the PE Gear Shed would be a really good way to try to do that in an anonymous fashion. So if people did want to share any information they could quite easily share it along and then that could be posted up by the Gear Shed as opposed to being by an individual. So this, couple of us, Cam Smith is another who's, yeah he posts a lot on there as well and it's just about trying to share ideas, trying to create discussions and trying to get that whole networking thing out
as a place for PE teachers by PE teachers to help us to all be better at what we do. It's not a competition to be the best PE teacher, it's just about trying to do what's best for our students and for our communities. So, yeah that's I guess the point of that. We're not out there to try to make any money or anything off that, it's just a good place to sort of share and to learn.
Carl Condliffe: Perfect and that's some of the reason why I started this podcast, was being able to network and share stories. So that's Facebook page the PE Gear Shed, is that right?
Matt Lambert: Yup, that's right.
Carl Condliffe: So make sure you check that out on Facebook, give it a like and honestly I've been having a look over the last couple weeks and keeping an eye on it and there's been some really good stuff that I've been to take straight away and implement into my teaching. So it's definitely worth a visit and a regular look at. Now I think we've, I can't see the timer on the device but I think we're getting up near twenty minutes, so just
one last question for you. Matt, what's one thing people want to know about you, something funky or--?
Matt Lambert: Probably that I collect Lego mini figurines. So I've got, yeah about 360.
Carl Condliffe: 360.
Matt Lambert: Yeah.
Carl Condliffe: What's your latest figure? Are these little Legos that you build or just figurines?
Matt Lambert: They're just the individual figurines that come in little one off packs. So you don't really know what you're getting and you have to sit there for hours in the shop looking like a weird sort of feeling to see what the are the pieces in there.
Carl Condliffe: Like in the kids section?
Matt Lambert: Yeah that's right.
Carl Condliffe: Oh that's awesome.
Matt Lambert: I've made members of my department come and do that with me in the past too, I call it professional development. But yeah, it's taken a while to amass that total, there's only one that I don't have which is quite annoying, but yeah.
Carl Condliffe: Hopefully he turns up soon, or she or whatever it is I don't know. Look I really want to
thank you for coming along today. I'm just blown away by your approach, to your senior PE and what you're doing. I mentioned that we have talked about renaming our courses to really get away from some of these assumptions, but you've taken it one step further and you've actually designed these amazing courses and thought about what it's going to mean for the kids and what it's going to look like for the kids and also what it's going to look like for the school and it's obviously doing well, your students are preforming well and it seems like Heretaunga's a really, your PE department are really clued on and having a lot of fun with what these courses provide. So big pat on the back for you and your department and I really appreciate you coming along to share your story with us today. Cheers Matt.
Matt Lambert: Thanks for having me, it's been great.



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Carl Condliffe is a Health and PE teacher passionate about using technology to create authentic and meaningful learning experiences for his students.

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