Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Examining Curricular Coherence in an Exemplary Elementary School Program

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Examining Curricular Coherence in an Exemplary Elementary School Program

Article excerpt

A coherent curriculum is characterized by visible connections between purposes and experiences so that students acknowledge the content's immediate value. This study examined an exemplary elementary physical education curriculum for coherence components. Research questions examined the role of coherence in connecting and engaging students meaningfully in physical education. Observations and interviews were conducted to collect qualitative data in one program for 22 weeks. Data were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding. Results described two units, Balls Skills, leading to modified basketball, and Scooter City, a theme-based unit emphasizing student choice and responsibility. Students reported that both units were enjoyable. Although the Balls Skills unit was well planned, taught, and managed, some students commented that the skill and games content was valuable only in basketball. In the Scooter City unit, students identified numerous connections to out-of-school activities that enhanced content value. Comparisons with Beane's coherence criteria suggested that students valued Scooter City based on concrete connections to their lived experiences.

Key words: curriculum, physical education, standards, value

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Typically, award winning physical education programs are characterized by student excitement and enthusiasm, moderate to vigorous physical activities, high levels of teacher organization and instruction, and student learning. Teachers in these programs strive to design curricula "that students perceive to be meaningful and that are consistent with educational goals" (Ennis, 2003, p. 122). Student engagement is a primary indicator of the physical education program's health (Ennis, 2000). Students respond positively to programs in which they can claim content ownership and find tasks and activities consistent with their perceptions of relevance and value. Unfortunately, interviews with disengaged students in some physical education programs identify factors, such as embarrassment, disinterest, and lack of content relevance, contributing to student dissatisfaction (Cothran & Ennis, 1997; Ennis, 2000; Portman, 1995; Rikard & Banville, 2006; Tinning & Fitzclarence, 1992). Programs in which students refuse to engage often contain programmatic flaws leading to student rejection and refusal to participate. Interviews with students in elementary, middle, and high school physical education provide strong evidence that some do not find physical education valuable or meaningful (Carlson, 1995; Cothran & Ennis, 1997; Ennis, 2006; Graham, 1995; Siedentop, Doutis, Tsangaridou, Ward, & Rauschenbach, 1994).

The perceived value of physical education is also central to school district administrators' and taxpayers' willingness to provide financial support to repair and maintain activity spaces, increase teacher staffing, and protect and enhance instructional time in physical education. School district boards of education affirm the relative value of physical education to the community with decisions to allocate or withhold funding for critical facilities, such as elementary gymnasia, when approving the building plans for new schools (Ennis, 2006). Further, some physical education teachers are critical of administratively condoned disruptions to instructional time, limited access to indoor facilities, and dwindling funding for instructional materials and equipment (Dodds, 2001; Lee, 2001; Tannehill, Romar, O'Sullivan, England, & Rosenberg, 1994). When key stakeholders do not value physical education outcomes or do not hold high expectations for student learning in physical education, they do not place it on an equal footing with academic subjects. This severely constrains physical educators' ability to compete for school resources and to enhance student learning (Dodds & Locke, 1984; Ennis, 2006).

Problems associated with the perceived relative value of subject areas in school are not limited to physical education. …

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