Frequency and Nature of Physical Education Preparation of Elementary Education Majors

Article excerpt


Few studies have examined the preparation of classroom teachers to teach physical education. This study investigated the content of physical education methods courses for elementary education majors. A survey was mailed to 200 physical education programs at NCATE-accredited institutions. Questions focused on whether there was a physical education methods course for elementary education majors at the institution, and, if so, the nature of the course. Of 134 schools responding, 108 teach such a course, usually a required (n = 92), 3-credit (n = 61) course. The most important finding was that 41 of the courses require no contact with children. Only 48 of the courses include video- or audio taping of the students' teaching. There was a broad spectrum of expectations for elementary education majors in elementary physical education methods courses. Results suggest that the importance of field experiences, and the characteristics that make them effective, are not as widely known or implemented among sport pedagogy faculty as one might wish. Wider dissemination of such information, and help in developing field experiences, are needed in order to improve the preparation of classroom teachers to deliver physical education programs.



Despite the increasing public and official recognition of the importance of pediatric physical fitness and quality physical education (e.g., Barovick, 2000; Rothstein, 2000; Shalala, 2000), many states do not require physical education in the schools, or do not require that it be taught by physical educators. In elementary schools, the classroom teacher then becomes the only source of physical education.

Research has compared the process (Faucette & Patterson, 1990; Placek & Randall, 1986), the product (Faucette, McKenzie, & Patterson, 1990), and content selection (Faucette et al.) of classroom teachers' physical education classes to classes taught by physical education specialists. Results have shown that classroom teachers' physical education classes have lower levels of effective teaching behaviors such as providing feedback to learners (Faucette & Patterson, 1990), and that they may be more likely to cancel class or permit free play (Faucette, McKenzie, & Patterson, 1990).

Ashy and Humphries (2000) and Humphries and Ashy (1999) found that preservice elementary teachers in a highly structured field experience (which included teaching physical education, peer observation, self-reports, and instructor feedback) developed some understanding of and positive attitudes toward teaching physical education. However, neither study's results suggested that elementary education majors had the content knowledge to plan their own physical education programs.

O'Sullivan (1996) identified clinical experiences as a component of quality teacher education programs. Research suggests that field experiences are helpful to preservice teachers in developing teaching skills (Dodds, 1985; Placek & Silverman, 1983), as well as their understanding of teaching and children (Kagan, 1992; McDermott, Gormley, Rothenberg, & Hammer, 1995). For field experiences to be effective, researchers suggest that they be supervised (Curtner-Smith, 1996; Gusthart & Rink, 1983), have clear expectations (Belka, 1988), include observation (Barrett, Allison, & Bell, 1987; Belka), and include student reflection on their experiences (Dodds, 1989; Metzler, 1990).

Results of Ashy and Humphries (2000) and Humphries and Ashy (1999) are consistent with the emphasis placed on the content of field experiences (O' Sullivan, 1996). In particular, they support the efficacy of "deliberately progressive, sequential, and well timed field experiences" (O'Sullivan, p. 330) which are integrated with reflection.

If we accept that elementary classroom teachers will often be their students' only source of physical education instruction (regardless of our preferences), we must provide that. …


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