Elementary Physical Education Teachers' Content Knowledge of Physical Activity and Health-Related Fitness

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine elementary physical education teachers' content knowledge of physical activity and health-related fitness. Sixty-four .female and 24 male teachers completed the Appropriate Physical Activity and Health-Related Fitness test. Descriptive statistics results indicated that the mean percentage score for the test was 57. 6%. Results from the ANOVA indicated gender and level (?f education were unrelated to content knowledge of physical activity and health-related fitness. Years of teaching experience was found to significantly influence content knowledge of physical activity and health-related fitness. It is recommended that ongoing professional development activities be provided to improve the teaching of physical activity and health-related fitness in schools.

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The increasing prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States is a major public health concern. According to the American Heart Association (2011) the prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled over the last 30 years. Based on national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), the prevalence of obesity has increased from 5% to 13.9% for children 2 to 5 years of age; 6.5% to 18.8% for those 6 to 11 years of age; and 5.0% to 17.4% for those 12 to 19 years of age. School-based physical education has been identified as part of the solution for addressing the childhood obesity epidemic (Payne & Morrow, 2009) and as one of the primary means responsible for promoting the adoption of active lifestyles in children (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). The ultimate goal of a quality physical education program is to ,help students gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be physically active for a lifetime (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2004).

The teacher education literature suggests that a strong knowledge of the subject matter taught is a prerequisite to be a competent and effective teacher (Baumert et al., 2010; Belfort & Guimaraes, 2002; Mewborn, 2000; Shulman, 1986, 1987). Teachers' content knowledge affects their pedagogical content knowledge, enters into their teaching processes, and influences their confidence about teaching the subject matter (Kallery & Psillos, 2001). Content knowledge supports lesson structure and acts as a resource in the selection of examples, in the formulation of explanations, and in demonstrations (Leinhardt & Smith, 1985). Physical education researchers (Chen & Ennis, 1995; Hastie & Vlaisavljevic, 1999; Schempp, Manross, Tan, & Fincher, 1998; Siedentop, 2002; Siedentop & Eldar, 1989; Ward, 2009) have recognized the important role that teachers' content knowledge plays in the development and practice of teachers. Scholars point out that physical education teachers with strong subject matter knowledge have a tendency to recognize problems in student learning, accommodate for individuals' skill differences and abilities, exhibit confidence and enthusiasm for teaching, use more learning tasks per lesson, and hold students accountable for quality of performance (Hastie & Vlaisavljevic, 1999; Shempp et al., 1998). Moreover, physical education teachers with strong subject matter expertise included a high level of detail in planning and organizing instruction, designing activities that were more likely to stimulate their students' interest, motivation, and participation, thus decreasing the incidence of off-task behavior (McKenzie, Sallis, Faucette, Roby, & Kolody, 1993; Placek & Randall, 1986).

The NASPE (2004) content standards (e.g., standards 3 and 4) suggest that instruction in physical education should provide students with an understanding of how to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness as well as create an attitude encouraging regular participation in physical activity. Researchers have found that to become physically fit, promote positive attitudes toward fitness, and place more value in the health benefits of exercise, a person must possess the knowledge to make informed decisions about physical activity (Adams & Brynteson, 1992), mainly because this knowledge is positively associated to physical activity levels (Kulinna & Silverman, 2000). …