Pilgrims Progress: The Sport Education Crusade Down Under

By Alexander, Ken; Taggart, Andrew et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 1998 | Go to article overview
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Pilgrims Progress: The Sport Education Crusade Down Under


Alexander, Ken, Taggart, Andrew, Luckman, Jan, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Daryl Siedentop (1982) introduced Australians to the sport education concept. In a keynote address to the 1982 VII Commonwealth and International Conference on Sport, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, in Brisbane, Australia, Siedentop argued that sport education should replace what has traditionally been referred to as the mulitactivity curriculum model in secondary physical education. Fifteen years later, in large part as a result of the efforts of the Sport and Physical Activity Research (SPARC), sport education is being established as an innovative curriculum model, increasingly used as a component of upper elementary and secondary school physical education programs. Following a curriculum project involving more than 80 Australian schools during 1993 to 94, the sport education concept was developed in teacher reference format as the Sport Education in Physical Education Program (SEPEP) (Alexander & Taggart, 1995). Reprinted in book form in 1997, it has been hailed as an "exciting possibility...[that questions] the relevance of teaching these [sporting] skills in a decontextualised way which bores children to tears" (Kirk, 1996, p. 26).

Australian and New Zealand Sport Education Projects

The first projects (in nine Western Australia schools) occurred in 1993 following a workshop that shared the results of a successful sport education project for 10th-grade students in 88 New Zealand schools (Grant, 1992). A second project began a year later in Western Australia conducted by Edith Cowan University's SPARC (Alexander, Taggart, Thorpe, & Medland, 1994). The two workshops that launched these new projects both featured the work of teachers who had been part of the initial project. based on reports of teachers' work with sport education during 1994, the Australian Sports Commission's Aussie Sport Unit funded a national project involving 53 teachers (Medland, Thorpe, Taggart, & Alexander, 1995).

Finding a Place for Sport Education in Australian Physical Education

In Australia, sport education is one of a number of curriculum models from which physical education programs may be constructed. Others include outdoor education, social development, dance, fitness, and multiactivity models (Siedentop, Mand, & Taggart, 1986). Despite debates about the potential of sport to be miseducative, we continue to promote sport education because of its educative potential in a number of areas of learning and also because of the cultural significance of sport.

A Senate inquiry (Senate, 1992) and others conducted by the Directorate of School Education (1993) and the Minister for Education (1994) investigated physical education and described it as a marginal subject. As a result of these inquiries, development of national and state curricula for all school subjects has meant that a new focus has emerged for physical education. The curriculum documentation for physical education has begun to favor program models capable of effectively pursuing the social and emotional development of children without compromising the development of their motor skills. The student-centered features of the sport education model have allowed it to lay strong claim to contemporary educational relevance.

Sport education has been linked, in the SEPEP teacher materials (Alexander & Taggart, 1995), to "Key Competencies" highlighted by the Australian Education Council (1992). These were developed to enhance education and training opportunities in the postcompulsory school years. Sport education in the Australian SEPEP module includes student roles that are modeled on employer job description formats, allowing teachers to challenge students to apply for positions of responsibility within the sport education season.

Sport Education in Operation

Australian sport education research has found that project teachers have voluntarily initiated ongoing school-based staff and curriculum development work, undertaken widespread program restructuring, and reported improved outcomes for many lower-skilled students and positive findings for many students' social skills.

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