Promoting Physical Education

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Looking back on high school, we are able to recall physical education class and the positives/negatives it presented. There were students that viewed class as enjoyable, whereas some completely dreaded it. As you may recall, those that did not participate, or only gave partial effort made the organized activity difficult to perform. And if little participation was not due to students, the instructor may have had something to do with the decreased enthusiasm for physical activity. According to Pate et. al. (2001), "Physical activity rate decline precipitously during the high school years... A consequence of these low physical activity levels, rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are increasing among all adolescent population groups" (p. 1). In order to prevent such health risks, intervention tools must be integrated. Research has suggested that an important tool to promote physical activity depends on successful teaching strategies.
There are many characteristics that make effective teachers and learning environments. Researchers Ferrer-Caja and Weiss (2000) found that teachers who focused on effort, learning, and self-improvement maximized intrinsic motivation which brought more effort and persistence in physical activity. A competitive and "out-doing others" perspective revealed to be detrimental to the student's motivation (p. 9). There are ways to instruct that will help students focus on effort, learning, and self-improvement. A study conducted by Zeng et. al. (2009) suggested that teachers should carefully plan and implement their instructions with Informing (teacher tells, explains, demonstrates, reviews, or summarizes); Questioning (teacher asks questions that are intended to evoke a verbal or motor response); and Feedback (teacher gives feedback that is immediate, specific, and task relevant) to ensure the quality of physical education (p. 8). Teachers must find the right balance between each teaching strategy in order to achieve adequate amount of physical activity in class and promotion of healthy behavior outside the classroom. When such a balance exists, the hope for more participation is available.
Several research studies have found that integrating physical education in the school system has several benefits to students. One study reported that partaking in physical education positively correlated with less television watching, healthier eating, and more vigorous physical activity (Tassitano et. al. (2009), p. 4). As these correlates are greatly beneficial, physical education should remain required of students. As physical education leads to healthier living outside the classroom, some researchers still believe that even more intervention tools could be integrated. In reference to Pate et al.'s research study, LEAP (Lifestyle Education for Activity Program) is an intervention that is meant to teach behavioral skills that will help students to be active in other settings (p. 4). Introducing opportunities such as sports, fun active activities, and healthy eating habits will allow students to explore possibilities and incorporate behavior that encourages good health.
Physical education class may not be considered a student's favorite class, but students and teachers must be aware of the importance of physical activity and health. Teaching strategies must be planned out and balanced appropriately. Implementing the right amount of instruction and physical activity, maximizing intrinsic motivation, and integrating behavioral skills will encourage effort and persistence in physical education. In doing so will allow the opportunity for students to appreciate physical education and good health. As a teacher, providing students with opportunities is an essential objective in order to reach the main goal: creating the best future possible.

Ferrer-Caja, E., & Weiss, M.R. (2000). Predictors of Intrinsic Motivation Among Adolescent Students in Physical Education. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Dance. Vol. 71, No. 3, pp 267-279.

Pate, R.R., Ward, D.S., Saunders, R.P., Felton, G., Dishman, R.K., & Dowda, M. (2005). Promotion of Physical Activity Among High-School Girls: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Public Health. September 2005, Vol 95, No. 9.

Tassitano, R.M., Barros, M.V.G., Tenorio, M.C.M., Bezerra, J., Florindo, A.A., & Reis, R.S. (2010). Enrollment in Physical Education Is Associated With Health-Related Behavior Among High School Students. Journal of School Health. March 2010, Vol. 80, No. 3.

Zeng, H. Z., Leung, R., Wenhao, L., & Hipscher, M. (2009). Physical Education in Urban High School Class Settings: Features and Correlations between Teaching Behaviors and Learning Activities. Early Winter 2009, Vol. 66, Issue 4.

15 Replies

  • Balance is critical to just about everything and I completely agree that PE teachers need to find the balance between creating a physically beneficial classroom environment while fostering skills and knowledge that translate into positive, health behaviors and practices at home, Physical education curriculums teach a lot of physical skill but they struggle with educating students about health lifestyle choices and fostering motivation for continued physical activity. How are PE classes supposed to teach this balance if they are slowly being cut out of the school day?

  • I agree that balance is crucial in a PE class. In any class for that matter. I read a study earlier this year that delt with PE courses in Colorado and how they are dropping PE courses due to having more students engaging in after school sports. The article had stated that 60% of kids engaged in after school sports so PE was not necessary. This however in my opinion is not the right approach. As your blog states an increase in type II diabetes and obesity has become an ongoing and growing issue in the passed decade. Drastic measures such as dropping PE corses and finding teachers whom are incapable of finding a balance and keeping the kids engaged and interested is a battle that needs to be looked at and fixed before it's too late for, if it's not too late already.

  • I think intrinsic motivation is one of the most important tools in physical education courses. In order to be intrinsically motivated, students would need to know why and how PE can help them. It is hard to motivate everyone to participate in PE classes, especially the elementary school children who don't know anything except that it's either fun, or dreadful. I was one of those kids who dreaded PE. Not because I didn't like the games we played, or hated being active, but because I was incredibly shy and my teachers always forced me into activities when I was uncomfortable. The teachers really need to find a way to motivate all their students since each child is so different. Motivation is the key to being active, and the more we know about physical activity, maybe the more people will adapt to it.

  • Knowing how to take care of one's physical self is an essential life skill that must taught to our children. It saddens me to read about PE programs being cut out of our schools. If parent's aren't able to take the time at home to ensure that their children are getting enough physical activity, then these parents, and society in general, should at least take responsibility to ensure that physical activity is being taught in an appropriate way by qualified individuals in our schools.

  • I fully agree that Physical Education classes are important. Considering that I will be a PE teacher, I often wince when I see that a PE program is being cut in favor of other core classes. I agree that all education has benefits in some way, but with the recent obesity epidemic and health costs crisis, I believe that Physical Education is more important than ever.

  • Physical Education classes are essential for all ages, elementary through college. Having that time out of a day full of sitting in a classroom really helps the kids get there energy out and focus better in school. It also worries me how much PE classes are getting cut especially when so many kids just go home from school and sit around the house and watch t.v, play video games, or go on the computer.

  • It is very true that physical activity decreases with age. Physical education classes are exciting for elementary school kids, and more of a headache for high school kids. I think that having a structured plan is important, and agree that it is necessary. However, I definately believe that incorporating sports and activities that the students are interested in is necessary. The problems with this however, is the budget cuts, and access to the supplies. My high school was an inner-city school that was falling apart at the seams, and could not afford equipment for an entire class that usually exceeded 40. So how do you entice a group of unenthusiastic teenagers to do something they aren't interested in?

  • It is sad to see that some public schools are cutting out physical education classes because of lack of funds. However, I can see why they do it. The Superintendent walks into the gym and sees 50+ students shuffling their feet around the gym pretending to run, or some students sitting in the corner because they are choosing not to participate. It's an easy thing to cut from a budget because it seems no one enjoys it or takes it seriously. I am not advocating cutting physical education classes at all. I think they are a vital piece in the curriculum at any school. However, I think that some serious thought needs to be put into the way the P.E. classes are designed. The activities need to be fun but also actually increase activity level in the students.

  • I also agree that PE is an essential part of a child's education. While many people see this as time that the child could be learning more important things in a classroom, we need to consider how much sendentary time a child has throughout the school day. Many kids now wake up, sit at school all day, and then go home to play on the computer or video games instead of outdoor activities. Kids need to learn physical skills and find the excitement and motivation in it to make physical activity a lifelong habit. Without it, I fear that this will be another factor in childhood obesity trends.

  • There are many flaws within the PE programs that schools are using today, but that is no reason to eliminate them out of the curriculum. It is essential for the youth to be educated about the benefits of physical activity at a young age while they are still growing and active. I really believe that a change needs to be made in elementary PE programs. Since our society is so worried about childhood obesity, how about we try and stop the problem before it starts. Having interesting, educational physical activity classes in schools could increase the motivation of the children and spike their interest in living active lifestyles.

  • In high school we had a quarter of health a quarter of p.e. I think that was a perfect balance between learning and experiencing. We got to sit and discuss behaviors then actually see what it takes to live out those discussions.

  • This area if one of my passions! With hopes of one day being a physical education teacher it is essential to understand the importance of physical activity in our youth. The thing I find interesting is that schools tend to teach different sport skills, which I strongly argue is essential, but as adults people tend to focus more on the fitness aspects of physical activity. I think schools need to include different fitness activities like yoga into their curriculum to expose students to different activities.

  • A contributing factor that feel is an important part to why being physically active in youth is declining is the lack of seriousness in gym classes. When i was in high school, many students did not participate in activities in gym classes and it always not a problem. Our teacher would still give "participation points" even if no real effort was made. I feel that PE courses should be taken seriously and should challenge students. If obesity is such a growing concern, more time and effort should be placed on participation in classes.

  • Right now at the U of M, I push to have at last 2 PE courses per semester. I feel like it suppliments any other physical activity that I do during the week. Along with this fact, it is a great way to break the cycle of sitting in class taking notes or studying for a test. Schools need to realize that PE is neccessary for students to have a well-rounded lifestyle.

  • I think this article is pretty good. personally I loved gym class during my high school days, even now I try to take one PE class that I can enjoy. I would like to point out that perhaps they should introduce more variety in gym classes, I know the stance on school boards is that they must be a learning environment. I however disagree, take out the tests and let the kids just be kids, in my experience half the time I was spent being bored out of my mind by some teacher going on and on about different rules that I could care less about. As for those that don't participate, well I guess I view them as a lost cost, kick them into a study hall

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