Teacher Evaluations of Standardized Physical Education Curricula

Article excerpt

Abstract

Relatively little is known about the use of structured physical education curricular models in physical education settings. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' perspectives of various physical education curricular models. Teacher participants ranged from those involved in very structured curricular programs, to teachers that chose their own curricular content within a National and State standards based framework. Seventeen teachers with varying degrees of experience from elementary, junior high, and high schools, in two western USA states participated. Teachers were interviewed about their level of expertise within their field, self-efficacy issues, and various challenges faced within their profession, with attention placed upon perception of their physical education curricula. Two themes emerged: (a) teacher reaction to structured physical education curricula was varied and those with more experience had more positive perceptions, and (b) teacher fidelity to their adopted curricular model was influenced by training, accountability, and content efficacy.

Classroom Settings

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act and its emphasis on standardized test results have placed pressures on school systems to focus on test scores. In turn, school administrators pressure teachers to prepare students for taking standardized tests (Reynolds, 2007; Wohlwend, 2009). In response to those pressures, some schools and districts have adopted standardized curricular programs for teachers to use. These curricula vary from programs with detailed scope and sequence plans that attempt to standardize student experiences to those models that provide standard scripts for all teachers to use when teaching content. Advocates point out that a common curriculum helps define more explicitly what students need to learn; thereby improving test scores and student learning outcomes from the curriculum (Clifford & Marinucci, 2008).

Classroom research study findings on standardized curricula use and outcomes are mixed. For example, in a study conducted with a Title 1 urban school in California, using the districted mandated Open Court Language Arts curriculum, it was found that students reading achievement scores exceeded that of students using different curricular models (Ede, 2006). In another study conducted in the state of California, however, with the same Open Court scripted curricular model, no evidence was found that students developed higher reading achievement scores than students using comparable methods of instruction (Ede, 2006).

Critics of standardized curricula often focus on the "deskilling" and decontextualized nature of the programs. Classroom teachers have reported feeling that standard curricula narrowed their discretion, discouraged effective instruction, and focused on lower-order learning (Owaga, 2006). Further, some believe that such policies can also limit inquiry-oriented, teacher-learning opportunities that build a flexible, professional knowledge base on which teachers rely to use best practices in a variety of situations (Milosovic, 2007). When classroom lessons are carefully scripted in advance, students may become good at following directions but less skilled at thinking critically and developing a personal sense of inquiry with "real"-world problems outside of the school environment (Owaga, 2006). More and more teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to use their knowledge and expertise to teach using best practices when they are expected to use a "teacher-proof' scripted curriculum written by textbook publishers (Kohn, 2008).

Another disadvantage of standardized curricula is that it doesn't take teachers' belief systems or value orientations into account. Teachers often choose to teach what they value. If teachers are prevented from teaching what they value, there may be a misalignment between teachers' values and their implemented curriculum. …