Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Improving the Image of the Physical Education Profession

By Baghurst, Timothy; Bryant, Lance C. | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Improving the Image of the Physical Education Profession


Baghurst, Timothy, Bryant, Lance C., Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


If a member of the public decided to drop in on a national physical education conference would they recognize it as a conference for physical educators and health professionals? From the physiques of its members would they see a visual interpretation of what health and physical fitness should represent? Unfortunately, the fear is that they would not. Although this is a controversial topic, the health and physical fitness of physical educators and health educators needs to be publicly addressed.

Modeling physical fitness and healthy behaviors has been a topic of discussion in the profession for decades. Arguably the most famous research on this topic was conducted by Melville and Maddalozzo (1988) who found that a high school physical educator's body fatness could affect students' ability to retain information and their intent to exercise. In addition, the teacher's perceived likeability, expertise, and appropriateness as a role model were all lower when the educator was viewed as obese. Students have also been found to score higher on health related fitness tests if they perceived their physical education teachers to be fit (Dean, Adams II, & Comeau, 2005; Thomson, 1996).

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As the debate continues, whether physical education teacher education (PETE) programs should test the fitness of their students remains highly controversial. The purpose of this article is not to rehash old discourse, but rather to highlight new ideas that might improve the image of the physical education profession. Throughout this article the authors: 1) suggest that some form of fitness/health testing is necessary, 2) discuss the type of testing that could be implemented, 3) rationalize why faculty anal other kinesiology majors should be tested, and 4) suggest methods that an employer can use to encourage a healthy, fit applicant.

Why Some Form of Testing is Needed

The opinions of whether physical education majors should be required to pass a physical fitness test before graduation are quite diverse (e.g., Issues, 1992; 2001). However, many recognize that role modeling health and fitness can act as an effective form of educating. This is supported by Cardinal and Cardinal (2001) who found that of the 1,000 plus physical education students and professionals surveyed, role modeling was seen as a powerful teaching tool and that the profession should practice what it preaches. "Good teaching includes good role modeling ... since the promotion of 'healthy, active lifestyles' appears to be the primary goal of the HPERD profession, one could assume that good teachers in this field teach and model the most favored behaviors and processes for improving their health and physical fitness." (p.37). In short, role modeling a lifestyle of health and fitness affects students' learning (Dean, et al. 2005).

PETE programs have the opportunity to foster lifetime fitness and wellness habits in their students. However, it cannot be assumed that students majoring in physical education have good health and exercise habits, nor can it be assumed that they will adopt them by taking physical education courses (Krause & Melville, 1993). In this case, testing might be important, for it can encourage activation toward the task at hand. Thus, although a student may not be overly concerned with their own health and fitness, the knowledge that they will be tested on their ability to demonstrate a set level of fitness might foster behaviors or changes that could increase their test success.

NASPE's National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE, 2004) are quite clear on how physical activity and fitness should be viewed by the educator. Standard 3 encourages regular participation in physical activity, while Standard 4 says to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness. Furthermore, Standard 2 of the 2008 National Standards for Advanced Physical Education Teacher Education (NASPE, 2009) "requires candidates to demonstrate their ability to integrate and apply the skills, knowledge and dispositions acquired in both their initial and advanced preparation programs rather than to demonstrate isolated techniques to meet discrete standards for each aspect of the teaching/learning process," (p. …

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