This is a question that requires more probing questions. Must there be a unifying variable of sameness? If so, what is it? The age of the people? The thematic subject? What actions are expected? How about the time of day? Idealists might argue that it is the formation of a learning community. Realists, however, can objectively observe it as a gathering of people being lead in what to do by a singular (or vastly outnumbered) authority.
The older a person gets, the more choice they have in entering a class, and the more specific the class gets. PE becomes weight training which becomes Crossfit. 4th grade becomes Algebra which becomes Calculus. Though it is implied that the skills build and layer upon each other, this is not always the case. Where you turn and what options you consider is based on your experience and the system that surrounds you.
It is very interesting to me that Physical Education is considered a class but after school basketball is known as ‘practice’. Is it because there are ‘cuts’ and a limited roster and it is not a requirement for graduation? It certainly fits the objective description above. Is a class deemed lesser? Why or why not? Does a forced student pool dilute the depth of learning and engagement, and if so, why are PE classes crammed with 50 or more kids? Is it being set up to fail, or is it acting as a holding area for a large number of students so the more valued classes such as language arts can remain smaller and more ‘focused’? What role and responsibilities do the teachers have in each of these situations? How might the soccer coach fare in PE? How might the PE teacher organize soccer for the after school team?
What would the kids expect to do in each situation? What level of play or performance would an outsider expect to see? What are the personal motivations and aspirations behind each participant? Undoubtedly, there would be a difference. But what shapes this difference? Where did they all start and when/ where did they split? Does this justify 5-year old soccer practice “running” drills designed by FC Barcelona? To get one’s money’s worth, should it look professional (AKA like what those that get paid to play do?), and what are the markers of professionalism?
In the simplest terms, ‘professional’ is something you can’t replicate with a set standard of quality on your own. You need others. An expert, an energy, a know-how, an efficiency. Most often, this is built around controlled homogeny. Do this. Human nature will acknowledge how well others are doing this. We have to set things up for others to notice — mirrors, rotations, time, turns — may it be the participants, the instructor, and/ or Mom and Dad. A system is in place for judgements and comparative bias.
There is no need for competence and chaos to conflict. Mayhem equates to a lot of activity. It is perceiver bias (and limited perceptive attention) that looks for small concentrations of action and effort. They must know what to evaluate. Order and lines come off as focused and structured — an accepted guise based on the nature of school and work — but whose main behavioral takeaway is learning how to fake it.
There are classes at the ‘Y’, classes at private studios, and classes recorded on a Peloton. Rather than a general variability in the quality of instruction, there is a differential in the amount of attention and feedback given to the student. Classes use social pressure (and enticement) to gain compliance. Even if it’s just you pedaling furiously in your apartment, the high energy music and instructor on the video screen AND the comparative data from your also isolated friend makes the act social and interactive. We look for motivation to do the things we really don’t want to do but think we should (or have to).
There is no substitute for having your friend suffer with you, and no effort in deciding what to do when you know you will be told. This is the inherent value of a class – built in tasks with built in support. All you have to do is show up and ride the energy wave that is created and manipulated for you. The reliance on these structures to compel you to do something, however, is worth investigating. What might happen to the individual once this structure is removed? What has happened over the course of the ongoing pandemic?