Cultivating Perseverance in PDHPE: 10 Strategies to Support Students in Overcoming Challenges

challenges pdhpe perseverance teacher Feb 20, 2024

In PDHPE, fostering perseverance is vital for students facing challenging learning experiences or challenges in life. These 10 strategies will empower you to integrate perseverance-building techniques into your PDHPE classroom.


1. Set Goals

Help your PDHPE students set goals they would like to achieve in their learning and their health and wellbeing. For instance, you could guide them to set personalized health targets, like improving exercising 5 times per week or learning goals such as engaging in each learning activity provided in class. I like to then celebrate a student's success along their journey as they persistently work towards these goals, reinforcing the idea that progress is success.

So if a student sets a specific goal to complete all their homework each week. I would regularly check how they were going with this and keep a record of the most weeks in a row they achieved it. This then gives them a measurement to continue to seek to outperform and I would congratulate them each time they exceeded it.


2. Celebrate Effort

Another way to encourage students to overcome challenges and persevere in your classroom can be to celebrate their efforts and not just the end result. Acknowledge and celebrate the consistent effort your students invest in their health and physical education. You will note that the goals above focus more on effort than on actual results. This doesn't mean results are not part of the goal, it just shifts the focus onto the effort required to get the results. We can praise their dedication to regular exercise, highlighting their commitment to personal growth, or even publically acknowledging the number of practice exam questions they have completed.

If a student who consistently participates in PE lessons even though they are not very coordinated. Focus your feedback on how they keep trying even though they are not the best. Encourage them to continue to work at it as this is the only way to get better anyway. This emphasizes the value of their persistent effort, creating a positive atmosphere that motivates others to persevere.


3. Provide Constructive Feedback

We can get distracted by all the errors when we give feedback, often covering a report or quiz in red pen. It is important however that we acknowledge what they have done well and then focus on one thing at a time to improve that is likely to impact what they achieve in the next thing they submit to you. Perhaps they need to revise a key topic or you can identify their lack of effort that has contributed to a poor performance. Then encourage them to engage more, complete homework, or simply move away from a friend in class to help them focus on their learning.

I think it is highly valuable to emphasise the learning aspect that comes with feedback. You are not giving feedback to tell them they are wrong, but instead to help them continue on their learning journey towards their goals. Encourage them to embrace challenges, view feedback as valuable, and continuously refine their knowledge and skills.


4. Encourage Reflection

Integrating reflection activities into your PDHPE lessons, prompting them to assess their progress and identify areas for growth is key to helping them learn to persevere. We can do this by implementing reflective journals or having class discussions to foster self-awareness and actively engage students in their learning journey.

For example, after completing a fitness unit, have students reflect on their initial goals, the progress they made, and the challenges they faced. Encourage them to identify strategies that helped them overcome obstacles and barriers to achieving the goals. This will help promote a mindset of continuous improvement.


5. Integrate Challenging Tasks

For students to learn to persevere they must be met with challenges. Students who sit in your class and already know what you are teaching or are already experts in the skills during the PE lesson are not learning to persevere. We can instead design activities that challenge students, pushing them beyond their comfort zones and into the zone of proximal development.

One way I have done this before in a PE lesson was to introduce a challenging obstacle course that required teamwork and strategic thinking, promoting perseverance through collaborative problem-solving. The complexity of the task encourages perseverance, and the shared accomplishment reinforces the importance of collaboration in overcoming difficulties.


6. Teach Resilience Strategies

We can also empower our students with resilience strategies such as positive self-talk and goal-setting. Before attempting a challenging task, encourage them to practice positive affirmations to build confidence and reinforce their belief in their abilities. They could apply this before working on a larger project or just before a test. It helps boost their confidence, which makes them more likely to continue even when it gets hard.

For example, before an assessment, guide students in developing positive self-talk scripts. Provide them with a few examples and encourage them to create their own. Then witness their increased confidence and perseverance as they employ these strategies to overcome nerves and perform at their best.


7. Create a Supportive Environment

if students are going to try something challenging they always start by weighing up the risk to reward. If the classroom is not supportive of failure, they are less likely to persevere as the risk is higher than the reward. So, it is vital to establish a supportive classroom environment where peer collaboration and support thrive. Encourage teamwork in group activities, emphasizing that challenges are more manageable when faced collectively.

For example, implement collaborative group projects where you monitor the group's progress as well as the final product they produce. This fostering of collaboration helps to establish a supportive environment as the students work together to achieve the same goal. Students working together to research and present information not only strengthens their understanding but also builds a supportive community that encourages perseverance.


8. Incorporate Grit-Related Topics

Our syllabus is full of grit-related topics. Overcoming challenges, dealing with change, managing difficult social contexts and taking calculated risks are all related to grit. It is important to not just learn how these skills apply to the broader aspect of life, but also how they apply to our learning process. 

One way to do this is to highlight role models and emphasise not just their training to learn skills, but also their dedication to learning. We often highlight athletes and their ability to overcome a setback to achieve greatness. But we can also use examples such as Dr. Temple Grandin.

9. Highlight Role Models

Learning has always incorporated stories, especially stories of people overcoming major obstacles. In fact, most if not all novels and movies these days are about a hero who overcomes both an external and an internal obstacle in order to achieve something great. Let's share stories of role models who embody perseverance in our units. Use them to motivate students in relation to the topics being learned, but also in relation to their learning journey. Discuss individuals who made significant lifestyle changes for better health, for athletic achievements, for academic progress, or even to simply help others. Inspiring true stories help students to persist in their own journeys.

Here are a few examples you could use:

  1. Bethany Hamilton - After losing her left arm in a shark attack at the age of 13, she continued to pursue her passion for surfing and became a professional surfer, inspiring countless people with her resilience .  
  2.  Stephen Hawking - Despite being diagnosed with ALS at a young age, he made significant contributions to the field of theoretical physics and became a renowned author and speaker .  
  3.  Malala Yousafzai - After surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban due to her advocacy for girls' education, she continued her activism and became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate .  
  4.  Vincent Van Gogh - Despite selling only one painting during his lifetime, he persisted in his artistic pursuits, and his work has since become iconic and highly regarded .  
  5.  Oprah Winfrey - Born into poverty and facing childhood abuse and racial discrimination, she overcame these challenges to become a media mogul and influential philanthropist. 


10. Provide Opportunities for Choice

Grant students autonomy in their learning to cultivate a sense of ownership and motivation towards their learning. This can be as simple as using choice boards, letting students pick the context in which they apply their learning or just providing a few different videos to watch that teach the same concept.

one of the best ways I know of to provide students with autonomy is project-based learning. PBL often allows students to select a health issue for in-depth exploration and presentation. This autonomy not only engages them in their learning but also promotes perseverance as they pursue a topic aligned with their interests and goals.


As you implement these strategies in your PDHPE classroom, you are not just teaching subjects; you are fostering resilience and perseverance in your students. By optimizing these practices, your classroom becomes a hub for developing lifelong learners who embrace challenges with determination, creating a positive impact on their academic and personal journeys.

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