The Physical Education Teacher’s Role
This essay will discuss the roles of a teacher in Physical Education, how their motivational practices and teaching styles can influence lifelong participation, how the different key stages of the National Curriculum for Physical Education (NCPE) affect the role of a teacher in their aims aim to promote health and lifelong participation, as well how government strategies have affected teacher practice. Although there is no specific for Lifelong Participation (LLP), Vanreusel (1997) suggests the basis of participation can be described as an activity that raises pulse and is enjoyable in nature.
By continuing this from early childhood all the way through to adulthood and the later years of life, it establishes the lifelong link with participation in physical activity. A Physical educationalist can help promote a healthy active lifestyle and recruit people to the notion of participating for the rest of their lives by providing quality teaching and essentially through the use of motivational theory, which shall be touched upon later in the essay. Many people group physical activity and physical education together.
Physical activity is the movement of bodily parts that result in heart rate increase and expending of energy. There are differing types of physical activity, such as low, medium and high levels of intensity. These can be further grouped in to the type, such as individual and team based or recreational and competitive (Shimon, 2011). Hilton and Bramham (2008) propose physical activity can constitute non-sporting alternatives that still provide pleasure and fitness gains, such as walking the dog or gardening.
They finish with the notion of sport and exercise being two ‘significant and meaningful forms of an overarching, generic concept’ (Hilton and Bramham, 2008: p167). In essence, it is a teacher’s role to maintain high levels of physical activity throughout a session, whilst also educating students through the physical. As cited in MacNamara et al. (2011) the UK Department of Education and Science pronounced in 1992 that promoting physical development and capability that ensured lifelong involvement via competitive and non-competitive physical activity was physical education’s purpose.
Using the work of Shimon (2011) to help define Physical Education, he proposes by using physical activity as a process of learning, we mature the mind and body. Physical education plays a part in the holistic educational progression by aiding the development of children and adolescents in a physically active environment. Jenkinson and Benson (2009) summarises the subject of physical education, suggesting it is a tool to provide opportunities for learning of the physical and through the physical. It is also instrumental in developing domains such as psychomotor and cognitive.
Shimon (2011) articulates that physical education is the only area of a school curriculum that focuses on lifelong skill acquisition and development. In addition to this, because the importance of quality instruction within the school setting has now intensified, the occupation should not be taken lightly. It is recognised that school based physical education programmes are pathways for children to acquire knowledge to lead healthy and active lifestyles (Wuest, 2006; Gao, Lee and Harrison, 2008).
Teachers have a mandatory two hours a week of physical education that is expected to be high in quality. This can be achieved by engaging students’ personal emotions, resulting in intrinsic motivation to absorb knowledge and thrive in the learning environment. By providing a positive environment, it impacts on student’s motivation to continue involvement with sport and physical activity. NCPE The introduction of the National Curriculum for Physical Education in 1992 is seem as the biggest attempt of change to school based physical activity in England and Wales (Curtner-smith et al, 2001).
Reasons for this relate to a shift in governmental thought in the direction they wanted physical education to head in. Previously, physical education was about improving athletic ability, a more military style approach. This meant that teachers predominantly required a good skills knowledge-base, with the primary role of helping students throw further, jump higher and run faster. A shift in focus meant teachers were being asked to develop students holistically, such as improving personal, social and communication skills (Mawer, 1993).
The role of a teacher had altered due to the change in emphasis, and was now required to involve students in decision making processes, as this could help such cognitive abilities such as problem solving (Goldberger and Howarth, 1993). By helping the students appreciate the knowledge being passed on to them, it can have a positive effect regarding extra-curricular participation, potentially resulting in a festering love for sport and activity that will last a life time.
Curtner-Smith et al (2001) argue that after a few years, the government intervened with the aims of the NCPE, which differed from views of the original task force and had now opted to head back towards a more performance based agenda. With another change in emphasis, confusion could be caused for teachers. Assuming teachers had made efforts to evolve their thinking and styles concurring with the new roles implemented by the original NCPE, this move could have triggered frustration for the teaching public.
Despite these assumptions, data collected in two separate studies by Curtner-smith and colleagues (Curtner-Smith et al, 2001 and Curtner-Smith and Hasty, 1997) had shown the introduction of the NCPE had little or no effect on teaching behaviours. Direct styles of teaching remained common-place during the starting years of its implementation. This suggests that the sample of teachers had failed to adapt their roles for the benefit of their students. A central theme within the curriculum has been to encourage teachers to plan, deliver then evaluate sessions. This allows for critical reflection of performance.
Teachers can assess what they are doing right, in terms of promoting the aims of the NCPE, and also where they are going wrong, i. e. are the students not engaging? Does the learning environment have the right ‘motivational climate’? Teaching styles Teaching styles in physical education found distinction thanks to the ‘Spectrum’ model proposed by Mosston (Mosston and Ashworth, 2002) many years ago. Mosston’s Spectrum has been highly successful in underpinning the conceptualisation of teaching styles in many PE domains across the western hemisphere (Sicilia-Camacho and Brown, 2008).
The ‘Spectrum’ was a timely notion as the need for a model on teaching styles was emphasized by Mawer (1993) after the inception of the newly formed NCPE in 1992. He suggested that a variety of approaches to teaching were required as teachers were now required to form professional relationships built on respect and coherence however primarily because of the terminology used in NCPE policy texts, which included “‘setting goals,’ ‘exploring and selecting outcomes,’ ‘refining’, ‘adapting’, ‘improvising’, ‘describing’, ‘comparing and contrasting’, ‘analysing’, ‘judging’ and ‘reviewing’” (p. ). With a broader scope of achievement for pupils, styles differing from those previously more reproductive in nature (teacher-centred) required evolution to a more productive in nature (learner-centred) (Curtner-Smith et al, 2001).
Failure to implement such procedures could have resulted in the probable inability of a) teachers to facilitate the required learning wanted by the government, because of a more autocratic approach, where teachers would tell, shout and demand things from a student rather than ask questions regarding improvement or improvisation, and b) pupils to achieve the personal and social skills, as well as problem solving abilities proposed by following the NCPE (Mawer, 1993). Hall (2004) suggests that having a PE department geared towards the same goals and outcomes regarding the ‘Why? ’, ‘What? ’ and ‘How? of PE teaching will lead to a successful educational programme because of the understanding teachers garner for their roles.
These practices form high standards of teaching and help provide year on year continuity in classrooms, sports halls and playing fields throughout many schools that have optimised these ideals. Methods of providing high quality, inspirational teaching in the physical environment consist of non-stop, challenging and enjoyable activities. Teachers who appreciate the important part they play in a child’s education can help form confidence and motivation in youths, which provides a platform for lifelong participation.
If children are to reap the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle during our school years, in to the remainder of their adult life, Caune et al (2012) view it as an important factor that schools and teachers establish a lasting impression regarding the significance of lifelong participation to students. This is achieved by teachers educating and motivating students to engage in term-time physical education as well as extra-curricular activities, which can help prepare them for a life of physical activity (Corbin, 2002).
Methods of further involvement for the recommendation of extra-curricular activities can be simply asking students if they are currently participating in any. Also, by researching local sports teams and opportunities to become involve in extra physical activity, a small bulleting could be produced and introduced to students, providing contact numbers or websites, thus allowing them to take responsibility of the situation regarding participation. These club links can provide greater positive exposure to sport, motivating young people to remain in physical activity after they have left school.
Motivation When looking at lifelong participation, it is simple to see the underpinning philosophy of what is required from a person to participate in an activity for the duration of their life, motivation (Caune et al, 2012). Concerns have been raised over the past decade or so, regarding the low level of physical activity participated in by the younger public. As a result, the motivation of students has come to the forefront of investigative research, prompting many scholars to look at the setting of physical education (Caune et al, 2012).
While Roberts (1992) offers a complex definition, suggesting that “motivation and achievement behaviour are manifestations of cognitions and thought processes within dynamic social contexts” (p. vii). A more user-friendly definition is provided by Shimmin (2011), that motivation are the feelings of want and desire that push us to act on something. By applying this to physical education, he then draws on many factors that can influence a student’s reason for participation; interest in a task, belief in own ability as well as striving to improve ability are but a few.
Furthermore, the numerous identities possessed by young people indicate learning can be achieved in a variety of ways and means (MacDonald, 2002), thus requiring many different strategies to provide the environment to do so for each and every child. Learning and motivation go hand in hand. When motivation is provided by a teacher within the learning environment, it facilitates engagement. While it is impossible to make people motivated to learn, it is possible to affect the ‘motivational climate’ of a learning environment using motivational theories and strategies (Shimon, 2011).
Physical educationalists should always remain enthusiastic, engaging and confident. A teacher lacking in confidence will be the demise of all thoroughly planned sessions, clearly because a student will have little or no faith in what he is being told by his teacher if they are not seen to be confident in their delivery. By assessing the situation and monitoring how your students are engaging with your lessons using a certain theory or strategy, you can plan sessions and alter feedback and body language to suit the needs of individuals, thus potentially increasing motivation.
Theories can be considered as a toolbox, where by if you identify a problem, you can go back to the toolbox (theoretical framework) and provide a solution with the available tools. Self-Efficacy Self-efficacy is a motivational theory related to expectations, which is situation specific. When considering a task in hand, students consider confidence in their own ability before undertaking a task. Roberts (1992) speaks about adaptive and maladaptive achievement behaviours in this strand of motivational theory.
When weighing one’s situation up, if they consider their ability is high enough to achieve a positive outcome, then adaptive behaviours occur. This is where individuals are fully committed, consider the task worthy of effort and will persist until completion. Maladaptive achievement behaviours occur at the opposite end of the confidence ladder. When fear of failure, due to perceived ability, is rife students usually avoid effort and perseverance. This is critiqued and applied concisely by Gao, Lee and Harrison (2008), who give key factors behind how self-efficacy is produced.
They suggest the procedure is a complicated cognitive process of four key areas; past mastery experience (have I been successful with this action before? ), vicarious experience (am I as capable as the person I am seeing complete the task? ), verbal persuasion (Is the teacher breeding confidence in me? Using positive reinforcement and/or attribution theory), and somatic, emotional states (is the student feelings anxious or nervous about the situation or in the environment? ).
The model combines the managements of confidence and expectations. Analysing the concluding paragraphs of Gao, Lee and Harrison (2008) I can summarise that by applying theory to practice and creating realistic yet relatively high expectancy goals for individuals can avoid creating a sense of incompetence. To differentiate for a mixed ability group, it would be sensible to have a low starting threshold, where success is guaranteed, thus giving every child positive past mastery experiences (the starting point of self-efficacy).
Using a student with low ability for group demonstration can positively affect a whole class, as it breeds confidence in that individual, as well as impacting the vicarious experiences of the rest of the group. For stimulus response to be effective, praising students is not enough. It is imperative that value is added by specifically stating how they achieved success, such as “that was a good jump because your knees were bent and then you drove through your heels and fully extended your knees and hips”.
By stating the positives outcomes at the start of a program which students are about to commence, it can help develop a vested interest, adding perceived value to task or outcomes. It is important to realise that motivation is borne from self-efficacy, not vice versa. Government Efforts Green (2002) infers efforts in the UK made by the government to encourage lifelong participation and promote health, the supposed main role of school based physical activity, are visible by way of policies produced from the government (see, for example, DOH, 1999; NAO, 2000).
This is backed up by Flintoff’s (2003) assumptions that since the start of the 1990’s, the younger public has had an emphasis progressively placed on them regarding UK sport policy. The early 1990’s reoccurs as a turning point in the government’s emphasis towards sport in schools, with Collins and Butler (2000) proposing no real investment had been made before this time, reverberating solid policy commitments from the Labour government with both Major and Blair at the helm. Flintoff (2003) also states the reasons for this as being a rise in levels of childhood dormancy, resulting in issues such as obesity.
The government further acknowledged that an interest in other activities outside of sport and physical activity are an important factor behind drop-out rates and increasing levels of inactivity (DCMS and Strategy Unit, 2002). Coupled with a shortage in international success, the government has reacted by aiming an excess of policies and initiatives geared towards young peoples and increasing their participation levels. They have also produced announcements which commonly refer to PE as vital in educating and providing prospects for young people to gain independence in activity for the rest of their lives (Harris and Penney, 2000).
Houlihan (2000) argues the value of producing so many policies and initiatives, as this has led to the saturation of ‘policy space’. He suggests that public policy is now a congested field, where each member is challenging for position over implementation of future issues. Another significant implication of ‘policy space’ progressively running out, it can lead to issues of individual policies becoming inter-reliant, whereby the effects of one policy can produce implications for the functioning of other policies (Houlihan, 2000), having an adverse effect on achieving their aims, which in some cases are increasing lifelong participation.
One such policy, the School Sports Co-ordinator (SSCO), was a multi-departmental design. It linked with the Government’s efforts to create combined thinking, “in this case between sport (the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, DCMS) and education (the Department of Education and Skills, DfES)” (Flintoff, 2003. p232). The purpose of the role was to create opportunities in sport, by developing links between the physical education delivered in schools and the local sports clubs belonging to the broader community.
The government has made efforts to bring teachers to the forefront of developing the strategies for SSCO, which appears a sensible decision, as they are the deliverers on the front line of the initiative. If the School Sport Co-ordinator programme is to achieve the aims set out, then professionals taking the post will require adequate knowledge of young people, the different motivational practices and be able to positively change attitudes towards physical activity (Flintoff, 2003).
When given greater opportunity to experience a wider range of activities during younger life, this can have a positive effect in increasing lifelong participation as I shall look at in the next section. Early learning experiences Work from Kirk (2005) debates that while early learning experiences are critical to continuing involvement in physical activity, only a select few groups of the population are exposed to quality experiences in both schools and community clubs. Those lacking exposure to such experience range from youths with a lower socioeconomic background, girls and the young disabled.
In contrast to young people from a higher socioeconomic background, boys and the able bodied, the aforementioned groups miss out on quality experiences, potentially affecting introduction to a rich volume of sports and activities that could impact lifelong participation. Kirk (2005) later suggests primary schools are inadequately equipped to give children the competency, insights and inspiration to progress in to secondary schools with the ambition to be involved in sports for the rest of their lives.
A lack of quality early learning experiences in primary schools leaves little chance of the specialist PE teachers in a secondary school to impact on young student’s transition of learned knowledge to adults positively. Green (2004) reiterates Kirks (2004) thoughts that the PE, School Sport and Club Links strategy (PESSCLS) strategy ultimately failed, i. e. failed to raise participation rates of youths and linking school sport to outside clubs, due to the powers that implemented the role never had a solid research base from which to create an agenda for the position.
Therefore teachers in the position were never fully able to fulfil the roles that they potentially never realised they were given. Consequently, the large scale investment by the UK government only had marginal bearing. Because of this, achieving the desired outcome of impacting on the bulk of the school-age population’s, through the use of teachers in a community based role, continuity with lifelong physical activity was debatable. Fairclough, Stratton and Baldwin, 2002) It is widely believed that active participation in sports during youth is an important prerequisite for adult involvement in sports (Yang et al, 1996; Green, 2010; Vanreusel et al, 1997).
A quantitative study from Scheerder et al (2006) indicated that sport experiences and social background characteristics only partially explain the sport participation behavior of adults, whereas participation during adolescence is a better predictor of adults’ involvement in sports than educational level or arental socioeconomic status In the sports socialization process. Twilight adolescent sports involvement, along with the school program in which an adolescent is involved, appears to be a central role in the involvement of sport during later life. It is shown age is a significant factor of participation levels in physical activity, with national statistics suggesting there is a heavy decline when reaching the age of 45 and beyond (ONS, 1999).
In spite of this, a notably active minority of over 45’s remain committed to vigorous physical activity well in to later life and for the remainder of their good health. Green (2010) suggests this can be attributed to a positive childhood participation in physical activity, usually deriving from a school’s physical education programme, and the impact of the deliverers. These past tendencies are a good evaluator of how a person will participate during later life (Roberts, 1996) Socialization
Vanreusel et al (1997) offer insight to the long-term socialization process within sport, suggesting it is an on-going and complex process. Yang et al (1996) cites school as early starting point for this process, acknowledging the evolution, leaning and ingestion of skills, values, norms, self-perceptions, identities and roles. This suggests that primary school teachers, who are not specially trained for delivering physical education as a subject, will be a catalyst for the levels of activity or inactivity of their students.
It can be argued that involvement in sport is not just a starting point of sport socialization but can be considered a by-product of it. Longitudinal studies (Vanreusel et al. 1997, Yang et al, 1996) have shown that strong links exist regarding the amount of physical activity during childhood and early teen years directly correlate with levels of physical activity in to adulthood. They also propose that the definitive years, that impact the sport socialization process, are the late adolescent years (16-19).
This data then shifts the emphasis towards the importance of secondary school PE teachers, who are directly trained to deliver the subject of physical education, and the important role they play in the lifelong participation of the students they engage with on a weekly basis for a substantial amount of time, usually 5 years. Patters of inactivity are formed in this period that follow people throughout the rest of their lives (Vanreusel et al, 1997). Seefeld, Malina and Clark (2002) propose that ersisting with the extensive socialization process that ensues when involved with sport and physical activity during childhood and adolescence can be credited towards adult participation.
They also discuss that persistence should not be on a sole of few activities, but a wide range of activities. It is the richness of early learner’s sport socialization that is important. This array allows a young person to experience many different actions and environments, usually provided by the PE teacher, which permits choice. This is where it becomes the teacher’s responsibility to provide exposure to many different sports.
Although the NCPE provides guidelines on what should be taught, competent teachers are in a position and should possess the ability to differentiate activities and relate obscurer sports to more mainstream ones (Bocarra et al, 2008). The transition between adolescence and adulthood is a predominantly decisive time in relation to lasting participation. Roberts and Brodie (1992) support this with claims that as we reach adolescents and progress through to adulthood, lifestyles lean towards a reduced number of favoured pastimes that have been retained, increasing pressures on teachers to be a catalyst for lifelong participation.
Conclusion After discussing at length the roles a physical education teacher plays in promoting lifelong participation and active lifestyles, as well as factors affecting their potential to do so, I can conclude that PE teachers play an extremely critical part in the facilitation of lifelong participation. There have been disputes over the effectiveness of physical educationalists in the UK regarding the success of promoting lifelong participation. Kirk (2002) claims very little evidence exists suggesting lifelong participation has been promoted during the time in which a national curriculum has been provided.
Further to this, Kirk (2002), cited in Green, Smith and Roberts (2005), places blame towards a lack of similarity regarding the predominantly sports orientated physical education programmes and the lifestyle activities of adults. This is contended by Green, Smith and Roberts (2005) who say it is apparent in nature that sport and physical activity is engrained in present-day youth culture, citing the use of physical education programmes and the range of activity provided by the teachers that have developed comprehensive sporting repertoires and how this as helps promote healthy lifestyles.
As touched upon earlier, motivation is another important subject, as it forms the basis behind all actions and desires that consistently appear in somebodies life. I have cited the motivational theory of self-efficacy as an ideal framework in which to build upon. By positively impacting the self-efficacy of a student, via the four components I mentioned earlier (past mastery, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and emotions), it can develop the intrinsic motivation required for prolonged engagement.
Despite all the other sections of this essay I have critiqued towards the role a physical education teachers plays in promoting lifelong participation and an active lifestyle, I place motivation at the top of the totem when analysis the factors towards lifelong participation.