Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Exploring the Meaning African American PETE Teacher Candidates Ascribe to Their Aquatic Experiences

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Exploring the Meaning African American PETE Teacher Candidates Ascribe to Their Aquatic Experiences

Article excerpt

Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs typically require their graduates to learn to swim proficiently. However, the research base is underdeveloped regarding the aquatic experiences of African Americans in PETE programs. The purpose of this study was to explore the meaning African American PETE teacher candidates ascribe to their aquatic experiences. Participants were six African American teacher candidates. The research design was explanatory multiple-case study. The primary data sources were interviews and weekly journal reflections. Data from these sources were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The teacher candidates ascribed various meanings to their experiences, linking them to successes or traumatic events including criticism and race-based stereotypical views. Nevertheless, overcoming aqua-phobia and striving for success in the aquatic courses were common to the participants' journeys. Recommendations include a series of progressive aquatic courses to help students overcome aqua phobia, when necessary; increase swimming proficiency; and counter race-based sport stereotypes about African Americans.

Keywords: African American, aquatics, physical education, experiences, historically Black colleges and universities


Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs are charged with preparing teachers who can implement socially just pedagogies (Hodge & Faison-Hodge, 20 1 0). This includes preparing teacher candidates to design and implement various curriculum models. Arguably, this charge should include aquatic content and pedagogy, as well as preparing teacher candidates to work with students in diverse communities (Sato et al., 2010).

A wealth of empirical studies confirms that there are many benefits to learning how to swim proficiently. Berukoff and Hill (2010) stated that learning how to swim increases water safety; enhances physiological fitness; promotes social, emotional, and psychological wellness; provides a sense of accomplishment and gratification; and increases opportunities for social interaction. Furthermore they asserted that, "Having a minimum level of swimming competency can increase job opportunities, since aquatic professionals are always needed as lifeguards and swim instructors" (p. 410). Nevertheless, there is a lack of aquatic facilities and programs in urban schools and communities, which results in lost recreational and educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged Black youth. Consequently, some 60% of Black youths between the ages 6 and 16 years old do not know how to swim (Thomas-Lynn, 2008). This percentage is nearly twice as high as that of White youths in the same age range. Additionally, accidental drowning rates between Black and White youths differ by a three to one ratio (Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, 2008). There is a great need for more physical education teachers to be prepared and willing to teach aquatics in urban communities.

There were no PETE programs designed for African American physical education teachers until 1924 when two historically Black institutions, Howard University and Hampton Institute (now University), established four-year degree PETE programs (Hodge & Wiggins, 2010). Of the more than one hundred historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in America today (Wilson, 2007), few offer an aquatics concentration for PETE majors. However, HBCUs typically require the general student body to take an aquatic course on basic water safety and swimming techniques, because of the lack of exposure to swimming in many students' early years.

HBCUs are defined, under the Higher Education Act of 1965 as institutions of higher education established before 1964 whose principal mission was then, and remains today, the education of Black citizens (Wilson, 2007). In the fall of 2006, there were 310,446 students enrolled at HBCUs across 21 states, the District of Columbia, and the U. …

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