Physical education is one of the few disciplines that call provide children with educational opportunities to develop in all three domains: the psychomotor, affective, and cognitive. Students develop in the psychomotor domain as they gain balance, eye-hand coordination, agility, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility and as they learn individual and team sports skills. They learn cooperation, a work ethic, good sporting behaviors, perseverance, and how to be a competent team member by developing the affective domain in a quality physical education program. Physical educators traditionally have focused on these two domains (i.e., the psychomotor and affective). However, in order to affect the whole child and provide students with a comprehensive learning experience, the physical educator must be able to assist in the development of analytical, creative, and evaluative thinking skills by using strategies that are designed to develop the cognitive domain.
Physical educators can enhance the cognitive domain by providing their students with opportunities for creative expression, brainstorming, and using problem--solving skills (Bellanca & Fogarty, 1991). The cognitive domain is also improved when students practice their ability to compare, contrast, analyze, sequence, and evaluate ideas, thus enhancing their understanding and developing skills that they can use in other areas of life. Physical educators can borrow useful strategies from educational psychology in order to reinforce academic and cognitive skills by using graphic organizers for planning and teaching. Therefore, the focus of this article is on the use of graphic organizers in physical education.
The Value of Graphic Organizers
Ausubel (1960) described the learning process as an integrated system. New ideas that come into the system connect with existing concepts, which he called cognitive structures. These cognitive structures must find an existing structure to connect with or fit into in order for learning to be meaningful. This is where graphic organizers can be useful in health and physical education. If a student does not have the cognitive structure to connect new ideas together, a graphic organizer could help form the missing link. By making thinking visible, graphic organizers help students organize, reorganize, revise, and modify the connections that they make as they process information (Ausubel, 1968; Bellanca & Fogarty, 1991).
Graphic organizers are visual representations of information that show small units of information and the relationship between these units. They are also called concept maps, story maps, advance organizers, story webs, or semantic maps (Callison, 2000, 2001; Davis & McPherson, 1989; Webster; 1998). Graphic organizers illustrate ideas so that a student can see a sequence or connection, which helps to organize and enhance understanding. They can help students learn new information and integrate it into their existing body of knowledge. Graphic organizers also allow teachers to evaluate and assess a student's understanding of a concept before, during, and after a lesson.
If teachers make abstract ideas visible and concrete, their students' understanding will increase. By using a graphic organizer to connect prior knowledge to new concepts, physical educators can provide a structure for thinking, writing, discussing, planning, and reporting. This helps students to focus their thoughts and ideas, which leads to better understanding.
A graphic organizer, whether it is created by the teacher or student, can help students clarify their thinking, reinforce their understanding, integrate new knowledge, and identify misconceptions. Presenting information in a visual format allows a person to understand the whole concept better and to see how the parts relate to the whole.
Using Graphic Organizers in Health and Physical Education
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