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Sport, Health & Wellbeing

Maintaining success in the face of uncertainty

For all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge disruption to both working and home life. Routine has gone ‘out the window’ and has been replaced with chaos and disruption.

Around the world people have had to reassess how they do their day-to day lives including work. Parents have found themselves working full-time at home while juggling online schooling with their children.

While that adjustment was initially hard for many, slowly people have found ways to make it work. Among them is Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education, Dr John Williams, who managed to find innovative approaches to work from home while supervising the online schooling of his two kids.

When home schooling was in effect John’s days started very early. He would get up at five a.m. and get about three hours of work done before his kids, Charlotte (11) and Jack (9) got up to begin their day. A lot of what he did was academic writing because of his role as a teacher researcher. In the early hours he had quiet time to write before his day started to run away from him.

“I was able to submit three research papers during this spell and I recall my living room looked like a library!” said John.

“I’ve found lockdown very good for writing and was lucky I had data from research projects with ACT Government Education to write up and submit.”

John is teaching the next generation of Health and Physical Education teachers with many of the practical elements of the courses challenging to translate to the online environment.

Nonetheless, John’s students’ online attendance in Semester 1 was on par with face-to-face learning, thanks to his innovative ways to ensure the students remained engaged.

“One approach I used was to invite my students to wear fancy dress for a week of workshops. A lot of them took part and had some very interesting costumes!” said John.

“I am incredibly proud and somewhat humbled by their level of engagement with full attendance each week. The fancy dress brought a fun element to their learning and indirectly helped them to be more comfortable about using their computer video cameras in the workshops.”

John’s students gave him some of the best InterFace Student Experience Questionnaire (ISEQ) satisfaction feedback that he has ever had, despite having to move to remote learning. This is in the context of John being in his eighth year of teaching at the UC.

“Many of my students are soon to finish their degrees and myself and my colleagues in our Health and Physical Education teaching team believe they will be outstanding teachers,” said John.

“This is through what they have learned at UC to add to the amazing qualities they bring, such as enthusiasm for learning, perseverance, adaptability and high levels of physical literacy.”

John’s success in working from home caught the attention of his colleagues and he helped them by providing an online seminar about teaching remotely.

“I was invited by UC Learning and Teaching to share some of my ideas about remote teaching practices. I think that these were well received by my peers. I tried to keep things simple, drawing upon my 30 years of teaching experience,” said John.

“Apart from the fancy dress, I had my students performing Koedal, a Torres Strait Island dance at home (with permission) and I supported this practical activity with one of my journal articles reporting how it is taught in ACT schools. Coincidently, it was my first ever publication! During lockdown I also took the opportunity to give my students more assignment feedback than normal, using the challenging situation as an ‘assessment for learning’ opportunity.”

In the past few weeks John has been back working on campus but feels well-prepared for the challenges ahead if we have to resort back to the kind of remote learning that was done in Semester 1. A positive from the lockdown was that he was able to run with his kids as part of his weekly exercise. This supplemented some weight training at home with son Jack joining in with spaghetti tins.

“The running is something that we built into our routine at the beginning of lock down. At first I had to drag them both out and myself. But we started using the App ‘Couch to 5K’ and we are still jogging all these weeks later. It has been really great for all of us and has been one of the few positives in these extraordinary times”.

When things return to normal, he says he will definitely retain some of these new ways of doing, both at work and at home.

“There is certainly scope for us to revisit, reflect and look at how we can make better use of online in the future,” said John.

“This time has taught me that we can still perform well from home despite restrictions, if we make a few small adjustments and build in routine.”

Words by Katarina Slavich. Photos supplied.

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