Teacher Effectiveness Research in Physical Education: The Future Isn't What It Used to Be

Article excerpt

This commentary was written in response to the Rink (2013), McKenzie and Lounsbery (2013), and Ward (2013) articles published earlier on teacher effectiveness in physical education (PE). The historical analyses of teacher effectiveness research in PE (TER-PE) presented in those 3 articles are briefly described, particularly as they represent a collective agenda in the first 3 decades in this line of inquiry. That collective agenda was primarily driven by physical education researchers and P-12 teachers, who developed and explored empirically based best practices for effective teaching and learning in physical education, which informed much of the content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge learned in physical education teacher education programs. Based on 2 recent policy developments in many states, external threats to the previous agenda for TER-PE are presented by the author, who concedes that the lead for the future agenda for TER-PE will soon be taken out of the hands of researchers, teachers, and teacher educators and transferred to educational agencies in the form of new policies on initial teacher certification and the evaluation of in-service teachers in a growing number of states.

Keywords: physical education teaching, teacher education, teacher effectiveness research, teaching policy


To varying degrees, the three articles by Rink (2013), McKenzie and Lounsbery (2013), and Ward (2013) offer a historical treatment of teacher effectiveness research in physical education (TER-PE). McKenzie and Lounsbery's description mostly focuses on the analysis of teaching and learning behaviors that contribute to public health outcomes and is predictably the briefest of the three. Ward provides a more extensive treatment of that history using the foundational work of Dunkin and Biddle (1974) to reveal the need for more and better analyses of teacher content knowledge (CK) in studying the relationships embedded in the presage-product, process-product, and mediating process-product paradigms in research on teacher effectiveness. Within the limitations of length, Rink (2013) offers the fullest description of the history of TER-PE, also acknowledging its origins in research on teaching in classroom-based subjects, while citing Dunkin and Biddle and Brophy and Good (1986) as seminal works that greatly influenced the development and proliferation of teacher effectiveness research in our field.

Evidenced from research reviews on teacher effectiveness in physical education (Graber, 2001; Silverman & Skonie, 1997), it can be argued that the heyday of this line of inquiry in physical education began in the early 1980s and was extended through the next 20 years, progressing from Larry Locke's (1977) laments about the "dismal science" of research on teaching physical education with its distinct paucity of legitimate teaching research studies being published annually (and the majority of those being conducted as doctoral dissertations). Kulinna, Scrabis-Fletcher, Kodish, Phillips, and Silverman (2009) reported that by the mid-2000s, physical education researchers were publishing more than 200 such studies annually. McKenzie and Lounsbery (2013), Ward (2013), and Rink (2013) point out that only a small fraction of those studies could be correctly categorized within the teacher effectiveness paradigm because most studies lacked one of more of the essential components of that paradigm required by Dunkin and Biddle (1974) and Brophy and Good (1986): a description of the teacher's intended learning outcome/s; definitions and systematic observations of the teacher's and/ or learners' behavior; and an objective measure of student learning. In most studies, physical education researchers provided valid and reliable descriptions of teacher and/or learner behaviors but lacked outcome measures that could be used to verify that certain processes contributed to learning or student growth. Lacking sufficient outcome measures, many researchers turned to the general education research literature to adopt proxy measures of learning in a quasi-teacher effectiveness paradigm. …