The Many Faces of Integrated Physical Education

Article excerpt

The concept of an integrated curriculum in the schools, while appearing in the educational literature since the early twentieth century, has received increased attention recently. Given the many criticisms of public education in the last decade and the increasing concern for relevance in the education of the nation's children, schools are looking for ways to address the needs of our students. Schools, and in some cases, state departments of education (McNeil & Sartorius, 1995), are demanding curricular integration. The push for integration may also be traced to the increased popularity of middle schools and their philosophy that calls for a team approach to integrating the core subjects of math, science, language arts, and social studies.

What does it mean to integrate subjects or, indeed, the entire curriculum? While different levels of integration are possible (Fogarty, 1991), a truly integrated curriculum is more than just the linking together of one or more disciplines in order to pursue a particular topic. Genuine integration is difficult because clear disciplinary identities (e.g., math, English) are not maintained, but blurred, as material is restructured and new organizing concepts and methodologies are required (Klein, 1990). Fogarty (1991) declares that integration must occur both within and across disciplines to have a fully integrated curriculum.

What forms might be assumed by an integrated physical education curriculum in the schools? Before considering this question, we first need to ask, what is a standard or traditional curriculum that requires restructuring in order to achieve an integrated curriculum? The traditional emphasis in physical education programs is on instructing students in fundamental movement, games, sport and fitness; that is, curricula center around students learning movement skills that can be used in game and sport situations. If these traditional types of programs are used as a baseline, what would it mean to integrate physical education both within and across disciplines as Fogarty suggests? Two forms of integration seem appropriate, internal integration (within the field of physical education) and external integration (integration with other subject matter).

Internal Integration

What topics might be considered candidates to integrate from within physical education? The knowledge base in physical education has increased exponentially over the last 30 years as physical education curriculum in higher education has undergone revolutionary change. Departments in which the major focus was producing physical education teachers have expanded to offer a variety of subdisciplinary courses and career path options such as sport medicine, sport psychology, and sport management. While most school physical education has not mirrored the changes in higher education, the winds of change are beginning to blow through K-12 physical education.

Examples of school physical education curricula exist today that differ quite radically from a traditional sport- and game-oriented curriculum. While a traditional curriculum often includes some cognitive and affective material (e.g., rules, regulation, norms), the major focus is on students learning to become competent players in the sport or physical activity. Examples include the multi-activity model (Siedentop, Mand, & Taggart, 1986) and sport education (Siedentop, 1994).

In an integrated curriculum, concepts, social interaction/personal development skills, or thinking skills are consciously selected and specifically taught as a significant part of the curriculum. This means that teachers make an intentional and deliberate effort to go beyond teaching students motor skills, games, sport, and fitness activities (Placek, 1996). One example of concept integration is the teaching of fitness concepts such as target heart rate, the FIT formula, and stretching principles and developing personal fitness programs based on these concepts. …