Should the Main Objective of Adapted Physical Education Be the Development of Motor Skills or the Development of Self-Esteem?
The development of motor skills should be the main objective of adapted physical education. However, I also believe that the development of self-esteem should be a natural "by-product" of an effective adapted physical education setting. The main objective of general physical education is the development of motor skills, so why should it be any different for adapted physical education. As physical educators, our main objective is to help all students develop the physical skills and abilities that will enable them to become successful movers and active for the rest of their life. I hope that adapted physical educators do not succumb to the busy, happy, "feel good" philosophy of some general physical educators.
Jennifer Faison-Hodge, assistant professor, Health and Sport Sciences, Capital University, Columbus, OH.
Why do we have to set up a system where there has to be a choice between motor skills and self-esteem? Why can't we set up a "can-do" system? All students can do something, and we need to start by making lists of what they can do. An accomplishment can be something as simple as an eye gaze in the direction of a ball or hitting 25 free throws. After this we can set goals based on what students can do and how far they can advance during a class. This is a critical aspect since the goals must be high enough for students to work toward and easy enough that they can achieve them in the allotted time. If the goals are made correctly, students can achieve them by working on their motor skills, thus increasing their self-esteem. So, the answer is to increase self-esteem by working on motor skills.
Judy Christiansen, student, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO.
Based on my 19 years of experience as a creative movement instructor, I firmly believe that the main objective of adapted physical education should be the development of self-esteem. That has been my experience when dealing with students from preschool through third grade, particularly in an "inclusion" setting with children having a wide variety of physical challenges. My mission has always been to devise physical activities that foster an "I can do it" attitude. These activities are always based on the child's level of mobility. Once the development of enhanced self-esteem is achieved, the students are more eager to participate in more challenging activities, which often results in improved motor development. It's icing on the cake!
JoAnne Matthews-Saunders, creative movement specialist, V. I. Resource Center for the Disabled, St. Thomas/St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The question of a main objective in any class is not independent, and it cannot be easily answered with only one of the two given options. I believe that within an adapted physical education class the development of motor skills and self-esteem are interdependent. The goal in physical education class is to succeed on a personal level. Beginning skill levels vary with each individual. With this in mind, the teacher must allow the students to challenge themselves and gain the knowledge, understanding, and self-esteem that they need to perform a specific skill.
In order to assist in the development of motor skills, self-esteem is vital. Few individuals, whether or not they have a disability, are willing to try new concepts, and they are even less likely to try them while surrounded by their peers. The idea of "failing" is not a concept that anyone embraces. When we encourage students to begin at a level that feels comfortable to them, it allows them to look internally and to work toward improvement. Motor skill development is critical to those students in adapted physical education to assist them in everyday life. By successfully developing motor skills, a person's self-esteem increases due to his or her growing independence and achievement in physical education.
Johnna Kay, physical education student, Capital University, Columbus, OH.
I polled seven graduate students who taught physical education in nearby townships during the 2002-2003 academic year. All of their adapted physical education students were mainstreamed, and their collaborating teachers used several special teaching aids. The graduate students' consensus was that self-esteem, rather than motor skills, was the main objective of adapted physical education.
I have only had one significant adapted physical education teaching experience, which I discussed in an essay published in Palaestra (1991, vol. 71, no. 4, pp. 26-29). On rereading that narrative, I found that, although self-esteem is clearly important, the emphasis is indubitably on enabling and enhancing motor skills.
It may be that an ideal adapted physical education program aims for an integrated credo that equally emphasizes both elements. JOPERD readers should read Grant Wahl's article on American goalkeeper Tim Howard, who recently signed to play with Manchester United (Sports Illustrated, August 11, 2003, pp. 60-61). Howard suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Nevertheless, his incredible odyssey has been successfully engineered by a combination of motor skill experiences (e.g., special relaxation techniques that reduce his involuntary tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior) and self-esteem boosts provided by his parents, coaches, team-mates, and other U.S. goalkeepers.
Scott A. G. M. Crawford, professor, College of Education and Professional Studies, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL.
It is not possible to separate the development of motor skills and self-esteem completely. They will always lie somewhere on a continuum. Where on this continuum the main objective should fall depends on the population that the adapted physical education program serves.
If the program has a lot of students with severe mental impairments, its focus should be primarily on building self-esteem, since major gains in motor skills may not be attainable. This does not mean that attempts should not be made to improve motor skills, but that the focus should be on the students feeling good about the experience.
If there are a lot of students with physical disabilities or minor mental impairments and there is a possibility of motor skill improvement, the focus needs to be shifted toward the development of motor skills. In this type of population, the students are able to see whether they are improving their motor skills, thus making them feel patronized by a program that is geared only to the improvement of their self-esteem. Obviously, this shift cannot go too far because they still need to be able to enjoy themselves.
Joe Strasser, student, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.
The main objective of an adapted physical education teacher should be to develop and build self-esteem. If a student's self-esteem is low, that student may not want to participate or give a full effort. If the teacher builds self-esteem and makes the students feel good about themselves, the students will then enjoy the class and give a better effort. This will then lead to learning and developing motor skills.
Matt Paxton, student, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO.
I believe that the main objective of adapted physical education is to develop the highest level of motor skills that will benefit a student's physical growth. When this occurs, the student will develop a positive self-esteem. The keys are the process of instruction and the motivational tools that are used to increase mobility. If at any point a student shows signs of low self-esteem, the instructor should simplify the steps in order to stimulate growth both physically and mentally. As students' motor skills develop, they will see a rise in their self-esteem.
Alesia McDonald, student, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO.
I feel that the main objective of adapted physical education should be the development of self-esteem. I believe that there is a limit to developing motor skills. Students can only go so far with the skills that they have. If students do not have any confidence, they will never show their full potential. Developing their self-esteem at a young age will help them later on in life. Since students have the most physical education during their primary education years, they need to learn self-esteem early. Motor skills can be developed later in life and still reach full potential. Having self-esteem can help students in all aspects of their life, and in physical education.
Paul Williamson, physical education student, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.
In reviewing the standards for physical education, we find that both motor development and self-esteem enhancement are vital. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to consider one without the other.
If a child enhances his or her motor skills, a logical result would be the enhancement of his or her self-esteem. The opposite would also hold true. As a student's self-esteem increases, his or her willingness to practice and improve motor skills would soon follow. By combining these two objectives, we are able to offer something special to our students in physical education.
No matter what method we use or what new approach we review, the objective of developing motor skills and self-esteem will always be in the forefront. No curriculum in physical education should start without these two basics.
Ed Schilling, associate professor, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines physical education as the development of (1) physical and motor fitness; (2) fundamental motor skills and patterns; and (3) skills in aquatics, dance, and individual games and sports. There is no mention of the development of self-esteem as being part of physical education. The fundamental philosophies and basic principles of physical education focus on the physical and motor areas as objectives of these programs and their activities.
During Congressional debates on P.L. 94-142 (Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1972), it was clear that physical education was included in this legislation in order to insure that students with disabilities had the same physical and motor opportunities that their nondisabled peers received. This, coupled with the definition of physical education, leaves no doubt that physical educators and their schools should provide and conduct physical education programs that offer students with disabilities the opportunity to attain defined physical and motor skills.
Positive self-esteem can be developed and maintained through the improvement in various physical and motor skills, no matter how small the increments. Feedback and reinforcement of these successes are not only important, but necessary in order to reinforce positive self-esteem. This feedback and reinforcement must reflect real successes and accomplishments and not be contrived just to make an individual feel good about him or herself. In this process, developing and maintaining positive self-esteem are not objectives, but rather outcomes from learning and being able to perform various physical and motor skills, regardless of the skill level or the type and severity of one's condition. Appropriate developmental progressions and sequences are integral to insuring that each student feels successful in his or her physical and motor accomplishments.
Developing and maintaining positive self-esteem are important in everyone's life and education, including people with disabilities. However, developing positive self-esteem in students is not an objective of physical education. Developing positive self-esteem can be an important outcome of every school subject. Physical education programs, including adapted physical education, need to concentrate on the reason they exist: to help students attain various physical and motor goals and objectives.
Julian U. Stein, retired executive director, AAHPERD Unit on Programs for the Handicapped, Oliver Springs, TN.…
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Publication information: Article title: Should the Main Objective of Adapted Physical Education Be the Development of Motor Skills or the Development of Self-Esteem?. Contributors: Not available. Journal title: JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. Volume: 74. Issue: 9 Publication date: November-December 2003. Page number: 10+. © 2009 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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