The challenge of teaching ‘pedagogy of aquatics’ on an online platform (Part 2): Dylan Scanlon & Claire Walsh

Welcome back to Part 2 of our blog!

To recap, we are focusing on the online space of teaching pedagogy of aquatics. Below we work through our rethinking and redesigning thought-process and share our ideas (we are not saying this is the right way of doing this but it is one way!).

Working in a constructivist alignment approach, we started with the learning outcomes of the module. From this, we derived learning intentions and aligned success criteria (please see Table 1 for an example of this; remembering this is being taught online and not in a swimming pool). We chose success criteria in where the pre-service teachers can ‘list’ or ‘describe’ so that the pre-service teachers can self-assess their own knowledge and engage in quick online peer-assessment techniques (for example, polls, interactive whiteboard activities, interactive ‘hands-up’ activities etc.). Once we had this done, then we could start to think of the online instructional approaches and assessment components we could use.

Given the pre-service teachers may have experienced the strokes previously and / or will have identified the components of the stokes through YouTube activities, we decided to work on teaching the pre-service teachers how to teach these strokes through the use of instructional alignment. In a flipped learning approach, the pre-service teachers are asked to read the Junior Cycle Short Course (Physical Education) specification and chosen literature on teaching aquatics. Based on this reading, the pre-service teachers are asked to construct a brief Unit of Learning for a chosen learning outcome from the Short Course. For an example of a layout of this Unit of Learning, please see Table 2.

In the next online lecture, pre-service teachers are put into pairs in break out rooms on Zoom where they will present their units of learning to the other pre-service teacher (peer teaching) who will then provide the presenting pre-service teacher with a ‘glow’ (positive comment) and ‘grow’ (constructive comment) (peer feedback). Once both pre-service teachers have presented and received their feedback, they are moved separately to another break out room with another pre-service teacher. In this room, they discuss their ‘glows and grows’, and their main take home messages from such conversation (peer learning). This can be repeated in an online speed-dating technique whereby the pre-service teachers are constructing new knowledge and building on their existing knowledge through peer learning. In all of this, the teacher is scaffolding the learning experience and acting as a facilitator, encouraging peer interaction.

This activity is repeated three times throughout the semester (as there are three aquatics learning outcomes in the Short Course). As such, on completion of the module, the pre-service teachers have three units of learning on how to teach aquatics for their future teaching practice. More importantly, this activity encouraged instructional alignment thinking in planning which the pre-service teacher can apply to any teaching scenario. Peer teaching, peer learning and peer assessment are all capitalised on in an online environment through this example. Our teaching and learning example shows how a student-centred approach such as active learning can still be utilised online; allowing the pre-service teachers to do something meaningful in relation to the pedagogy of aquatics online and reflect on that learning.

Returning to our original question of pedagogy or content, as we expected, it wasn’t a straightforward choice. While pedagogical content knowledge may be the goal, in the context we found ourselves in (that being, online teaching and learning), we felt something was missing in our thinking in combining both pedagogy and content. Through collaborative thinking and discussion, the ‘thing’ that was missing was Specialised Content Knowledge (please see Part 1 of the blog). Identifying this, and focusing on the pedagogy of aquatics, allowed us to rethink and rebuild our online teaching and learning practices for the pedagogy of aquatics. Stay tuned for the update on how it goes after this semester!

Key take home message from this phase:

  • We emphasise that this online activity should not replace face-to-face teaching but compliment (and possibly, enhance) face-to-face teaching. We are assuming at some stage throughout the semester that we will have access to the pool so that pre-service teachers can enact these units of learning in a peer teaching approach. If we do not have access to the pool, again, we will rethink and redesign our approach (maybe the use of skateboards and ropes to practice the swimming strokes on and water safety techniques!); we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • It can be argued that the COVID-19 pandemic, and its influence in moving teaching and learning to an online platform, has somewhat forced teachers to question the relevance and appropriateness of their teaching and learning, and engage in a rethinking and redesigning process; something which may not have occurred if the pandemic did not occur. This is exactly happened in our case! We had professional conversations which contributed to and enhanced our own professional learning and development, and, we believe, the module of ‘pedagogy of aquatics’ (given the context). This started as a big challenge but we got through it by working collaboratively. We believe this has to be the way to approach this redesigning process – working with someone in your department, reading blogs, connecting with international colleagues, and sharing your teaching and learning practices.


Dylan Scanlon is a Postgraduate Researcher in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  His current research interests include curriculum development and assessment re physical education.  You can contact Dylan via email or follow him on twitter @DylanScanlon1

Claire Walsh is an Applied Studies Coordinator in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences.  Claire is undertaking doctorate work in the area of wellbeing and can be contacted via email at  or on twitter @Claire8Walsh.  Claire is currently involved with the NCCA in the Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) pilot project.

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