Inclusion of children with disabilities into regular physical education has become a commonplace educational practice in the past five to ten years (Block, 1994). Inclusion can be defined as educating all children with disabilities (mild to severe) in regular education settings, even if it involves special resources, personnel, and curricula to make it successful (Block & Vogler, 1994). While there has been concern that inclusion practices would become problematic to learning for both children with and without disabilities, inclusion has generally been shown to be successful in promoting social and academic gains in both classroom and physical education research (Baker, Wang, & Walberg, 1995; Block & Vogler, 1994; Staub & Peck, 1995).
In spite of a growing body of literature highlighting inclusion effectiveness, little is known about specific teacher practices which promote successful inclusion (Block & Vogler, 1994; Macmillan, Keogh, & Jones, 1986). In physical education, Vogler, van der Mars, Darst, and Cusimano (1990) analyzed the effect of a variety of teacher practices on student learning to determine the effectiveness of inclusive elementary level physical education programs. Analysis revealed the number of transitional episodes between activities affected student learning more than other variables. Specifically, a transitional episode is defined as a classroom management activity related to instruction which signals a change within the class (e.g., team selection, lining up, moving squads, etc.) (Siedentop, 1991). Classroom management is referred to as any activity which establishes and maintains order in the classroom (Doyle, 1986). Research shows that a high number of transitions can slow down the pace of class and diminish opportunities for learning (Siedentop, 1991). In a review of classroom management research, Doyle (1986) found that there were typically 31 major transitions per day in an elementary class which accounted for 15% of class time. In physical education, Siedentop (1991) has reported that classroom management accounted for approximately 25% of class time with as many as 15-20 different tasks being presented in any one elementary class during the day. This factor may have produced excessively wasteful periods of time where learning was not taking place.
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of transitional behavior on student learning and off task behavior of elementary children in inclusive physical education. Hopefully, this will help to more clearly understand classroom management in physical education within the context of inclusionary practices.
Eighteen certified elementary physical education teachers from three school districts volunteered as subjects. There were an even number of male and female teachers. Their ages ranged from 24 to 56 years with a median age of 30+ years. Their years of teaching experience ranged from 1 to 33 years, with a median of 7 years.
All teachers followed a curriculum designed by Pangrazi (1998) which outlined specific weekly activities for three developmental grade levels (K-2, 3-4, 5-6). This curriculum used a four-part lesson format, including (a) an introductory activity, (b) a fitness component, c) motor development through skill practice, and (d) a games portion.
Eighteen children with mild disabilities were randomly selected to serve as participants. They had been identified and placed into regular educational settings in accordance with the rules and regulations of the state' s Department of Special Education. Twelve of the subjects were male and six were female. A decision was made not to include non-ambulatory students since there were so few subjects in this category. Fifty-four children without disabilities were randomly selected as participants for the basis of comparison. …