One of the main objectives of Dr. Timothy Swenson’s class, Practicum in Adapted Physical Education, is to provide students a field experience in teaching students with disabilities within a physical education setting. The experience benefits UW-Platteville students by allowing them to apply what they have learned in their classes to student teaching, gain confidence in teaching students with a variety of disabilities, and modify instruction to meet the learning needs of students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in students making the transition to virtually teaching students with disabilities for their service learning experiences. As part of their field experiences, Swenson’s students are teaching physical education lessons through Zoom on a weekly basis, sometimes to one student with severe autism, sometimes to a group of 25 third graders.
“The last two semesters have been unique in that my students have only been able to gain their field experiences through virtual teaching experiences over Zoom,” said Swenson. “Although this has some inherent barriers in forming relationships with the students they teach, which is essential in teaching, there have been many new opportunities for my students as well.”
The unique circumstances have provided students the opportunity to work with teachers from various schools around the state and the nation over the last couple of semesters, whereas in the past they only worked with schools in closer proximity to Platteville. One student is working with a teacher in the Chicago, Illinois area, another in Bloomfield, Michigan. Others are working with Wisconsin teachers in Oshkosh, Shullsburg, Monona Grove and Platteville.
Luke Pradel, a senior from Oswego, Illinois, is a health and human performance – physical education major with a health minor and one of the students in Swenson’s class. He is completing his service learning in Wisconsin with a high school student in Shullsburg and middle schoolers in Sun Prairie.
While he is unable to be in the classrooms in person to teach lessons, Pradel has learned a lot about how teaching is managed, all the joys and struggles included. He taught middle schoolers lessons on manipulative skills, having students use fly swatters to hit a ball into a basket, and soccer, where they practiced passing and scoring into laundry baskets. Pradel also taught high schoolers a lesson on football skills, such as throwing and stepping in opposition, and plans to teach a lifting lesson as well.
“My experience has been amazing,” said Pradel. “I feel having [service learning] virtual makes it easy for me to observe, because I do not have to travel. I have been able to learn a lot of management techniques and other teaching strategies.”