As an adult contemplates a career change, what would attract an individual to a career as a physical education teacher? Is it the opportunity to work with students? Is it a personal love for physical fitness and physical activity? Is it previous involvement and passion for sport? If a non-traditional student decides to become a physical education teacher, what educational program would best prepare the student for this journey? Would specific needs/interests of the individual be met in a program where the majority of learners are traditional students? These are a few of the daunting questions one must ask when deciding to embark on a career path to becoming a physical education teacher. As colleges and universities see an influx in the enrollment of non-traditional students, many unique challenges must be addressed to meet their specific characteristics (Chao & Good, 2004).
Census and other statistical reports show that the number of non-traditional students has increased in all fields of study in higher education (Walsh, Abi-Nader, & Poutiatine, 2005). The number of college students age 25 years and older has grown from fewer than four million in 1980 to more than six million in 2000. Nearly 40% of all undergraduate students are classified as non-traditional students (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Despite this rapid growth, few scholars have given non-traditional students much attention. Unfortunately, the limited research provides an unclear picture of nontraditional students (Chao & Good, 2004). Specifically, non-traditional students have not been a major focus of research in physical education teacher education (PETE). In addition, PETE programs have been criticized for inadequate development of content knowledge (Rovegno, 1992); for having too great of a focus on a technical orientation to teacher education with little emphasis on an inquiry perspective (Kirk, 1986); and for having a lack of commitment to multiculturalism and appreciation for diversity within the recruitment of students into PETE programs (Fernandez-Balboa, 1997). Despite efforts to improve pre-service teacher education, there is little evidence that any of these changes are making teaching education more effective (Metzler & Tjeerdsma, 1998).
Examining an individual's views and perspectives of physical education is vital for a thorough understanding of recruitment into teacher education (Dewar & Lawson, 1984). If PETE programs understand who their recruits are and what their beliefs are about teaching, school, and physical education, steps may be taken to better design, sequence, and present content to ensure a well-rounded program for diverse learners. An increased understanding of prospective teachers' beliefs and perceptions about teaching physical education may assist programs to help students prepare for the role of being a physical education teacher. With limited research available on non-traditional students in PETE programs, further research is warranted to better understand their characteristics. The incorporation of these non-traditional learners presents both challenges and benefits to teacher education programs that differ from those of traditional undergraduate learners (Walsh et al., 2005).
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to: (a) identify what attracted the participant to the field of physical education; (b) identify what situational and/or social factors facilitated the career decision; and (c) describe the beliefs of the participant about what it meant to be a physical education teacher. Two main research questions provided parameters for the study. First, why did the participant want to become a physical education teacher? Second, what were the beliefs of the participant about physical education teaching or teachers? These questions, along with the findings presented, may assist in painting a clearer picture as to why non-traditional students choose the field of physical education and what are their beliefs about teaching physical education and teaching in general. …