A minimum of 2 hours of fun and effective physical activity is a must each week in schools August 26, 2013Posted by christinefjohnston in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Primary Education, Teacher and Adult Education.
Tags: curriculum, health and physical education, teacher education
I listen to stories all the time about terrible experiences people have had with physical education (PE) at school. The stories mainly feature: dreaded laps of the oval or standing in lines waiting to have a turn with sporting equipment, as well as the pressure of performing skills while everyone is watching, and feeling totally uncoordinated and humiliated.
Negative experiences in PE during school can result in a total dislike and avoidance of physical activity that is often carried through life. Physical inactivity contributes to the deaths of over 13,000 Australians annually and results in more than $1.5 billion in direct health care costs each year (NSW PA Audit, 2012). Parents and carers need to take some responsibility but as educators we also must play our part in contributing to a happier, healthier Australia.
Schools play a key role in providing positive opportunities for children to participate in physical activity. A report into the physical activity of NSW government primary students found just 30% of schools are mandating the two hours of planned physical activity each week (NSW PA Audit, 2012).
The ideal scenario to ensure all children participate in the required physical activity is to provide quality education in PE through the use of a specialised PE teacher, something I discussed a couple of years ago in a previous blog post.
Until the current NSW state government recognises the importance of a specialist PE teacher, we need to examine what schools can do to warrant generalist primary teachers building their confidence in teaching PE enjoyably and effectively. This action will play a major part in developing students’ lifelong love, and participation in, physical activity.
Let’s explore four ideas for how that might occur:
- ensure all teacher education programs in universities are providing quality professional preparation of primary pre-service teachers in health and physical education (HPE) curriculum.
This means supporting pre-service teachers who lack confidence and fear teaching PE. Often pre-service teachers model their own teaching on the style and method they experienced as students or while they were members of sporting clubs. (Morgan & Hansen, 2007). Those previous teaching styles and methods might not reflect best practices that build all students’ enjoyment and confidence in physical activity.
- place a higher status on PE in schools through promoting the potential benefits of physical activity on overall health and wellbeing.
Physical activity improves psychological wellbeing and is known to reduce depression; it minimises the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies (Telford, Cunningham, Telford, & Abharatna, 2012) show physically fitter children perform cognitive tasks more rapidly, and that relatively short and specific aerobic exercise training interventions improve the executive functions of mental processing and strategically-based decision making.
- provide more professional learning to support and increase the confidence of generalist primary teachers to teach PE.
In-school support to generalist primary teachers must guarantee PE is programmed in the curriculum, and that PE lesson plans are provided, as well as regular workshops, mentoring and quality resources. Such steps positively influence teachers’ beliefs about PE.
- use Game Sense as a pedagogical model.
As Australian schools move towards a national curriculum there is pressing urgency for high quality pedagogy that highlights the possibilities for learning through movement in PE. Such pedagogy involves redressing the division of the mind from, and elevation above, the body. Such views contribute strongly toward PE being relegated to a ‘low status subject’ in the school curriculum (Light, 2002). The isolation of PE from the academic curriculum is exacerbated by remarkably resilient, ‘traditional’ pedagogy for teaching the practical aspects of the HPE curriculum that just focus on sporting skills. To read more about the Game Sense approach to PE refer to a past blog post. As teachers of this critical part of the school curriculum we must ensure that the value of participating in physical activity is recognised and that school students’ experiences of PE are positive and enjoyable so that they come back for more, and stay healthy and active, throughout life.
Audit Office of New South Wales (2012). Physical Activity in Government Primary Schools.
Curry, C., & Light, R. (2007). Addressing the NSW Quality Teaching Framework in physical education: Is Game Sense the answer? Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Asia Pacific Conference on Teaching Sport and Physical Education for Understanding.
Light, R. (2002). Social nature of games: Australian preservice primary teachers first experience of TGfU. European Physical Education Review, 8(3), 291-310.
Morgan, P., & Hansen, V. (2007). Recommendations to improve primary school physical education: classroom teachers’ perspectives. The Journal of Educational Research, 101(2): 99 – 108.
Telford, R. D., Cunningham, R. B., Telford, R. M., & Abharatna, W. P. (2012). Schools with fitter children achieve better literacy and numeracy results: evidence of a school cultural effect. Paediatric Exercise Science, 24(1), 45.