Preservice Teachers' Belief Systems toward Curricular Outcomes for Physical Education

By Kulinna, Pamela Hodges; Brusseau, Timothy et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Preservice Teachers' Belief Systems toward Curricular Outcomes for Physical Education


Kulinna, Pamela Hodges, Brusseau, Timothy, Ferrry, Matthew, Cothran, Donetta, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


This study was grounded in the belief systems and physical activity literature and investigated preservice teachers' belief systems toward curricular outcomes for physical education programs. Preservice teachers (N = 486; men = 62%, women = 38%) from 18 U.S. colleges/universities shared their beliefs about curricular outcomes. Preservice teachers completed a previously validated belief systems instrument designed to measure the relative importance of four outcome goals for programs (physical activity/fitness, self-actualization, motor skill development, and social development). Internal consistency reliability for the instrument was. 98. A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated a good fit of the current sample to the hypothesized outcomes model. Multivariate analysis of variance results revealed a significant interaction in outcome preservice teachers' priorities for year in school by region. The teachers' views also differed on the important outcome goals for physical education. Two critical "tensions" are discussed: (a) the need to examine more fully the consistency of preservice teacher/teacher belief systems, and (b) implications for teacher education and professional development programming. It is important to heed prospective teachers' voices and address their belief systems in teacher education programs.

Key words: fitness, goals, physical activity

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For traditional "core" subject matter areas, the textbooks and standardized tests used by the school district influence, or determine, class content. Although teachers in the core areas may have input into the course content, texts and tests often provide at least a strong outline of scope and sequence, as well as a detailed guide for teachers to follow. In contrast, teachers in the "special" content areas (e.g., art, music, physical education) often have much flexibility within national (e.g., National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2004), state, and/or district standards to select activities and sequencing, because those classes rarely have standardized texts or tests. In the absence of direct, external forces driving course content, these teachers often rely on their personal belief systems about the course, its goals, and the most appropriate content to achieve those goals when designing the curriculum.

This reliance on personal belief systems in educational decision making is well documented in the literature (e.g., Lara-Cinisomo, Fuligui, Ritchie, Howes, & Karoly, 2008). A group of beliefs clustered around a situation or object becomes an attitude that is prone to action. When beliefs function to evaluate (or compare/judge) and call for action, they become values. Collectively, an individual's beliefs, attitudes, and values form his or her belief system (Pajares, 1992). Teachers' belief systems guide their behaviors and decisions (Pajares, 1992) and affect a myriad of teacher behaviors.

For example, teachers' curricular beliefs influence their stated K-12 student learning goals and expectations for academic performance and behavior (Ennis, Ross, & Chen, 1992). Teaching beliefs are also deeply held and resistant to change (Kagan, 1992). It is important to acknowledge this aspect of belief systems, as preservice teachers typically enter their programs with well formed pre-existing beliefs about educational practice.

Given that belief systems are often unexamined and difficult to change, it is critical that teacher education personnel know more about preservice teachers' beliefs and how they may evolve over time. Previous studies with preservice teachers suggest that prior knowledge (Rovegno, 1992, 1993a), field experiences (Woods, Goc Karp, & Escamilla, 2000), and culturally based assumptions regarding sport and physical education (Rovegno, 1993b) were influential filters as preservice teachers progressed through their teacher education program (Rovegno, 2003). This line of literature documents experiences conducive to preservice teachers restructuring their knowledge base and belief systems and having those changes translate to appropriate instructional practices. …

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