Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

How Do Specialist Teachers Practice Safety Lessons? Exploring the Aspects of Physical Education Safety Lessons in Elementary Schools

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

How Do Specialist Teachers Practice Safety Lessons? Exploring the Aspects of Physical Education Safety Lessons in Elementary Schools

Article excerpt


Physical education (PE) teachers teaching physical activities and sports traditionally face the double-edged sword of "safety." Safety risk factors are embedded in all physical activities and sports. The goal of the PE curriculum is to educate students on the values of physical activities and sports while minimizing the risk of safety accidents (Bailey, 2002; Capel, 2000). A statement like the following can be found in PE curricula or teacher's guides in almost all countries: "PE teachers should encourage students to learn to take challenges and adventure and to compete through physical activities and sports." In fact, this statement is highly contradictory because safety and the values inherent in sports such as challenges, competition, and adventure are concepts completely opposed to each other.

In this regard, the PE curriculum in Korea, also called "the curriculum of the value of physical activities," is unique. It is an educational curriculum based on a new paradigm whereby in PE class students learn, not high jump and soccer, but the value of challenges through high jump and the value of competition through soccer. Interestingly, the PE curriculum presents "safety" as a core value for students to learn in addition to "health," "challenge," "competition," and "expression" (MEST, 2012). While safety is a critical educational issue in any country, the Korean PE curriculum emphasizes its importance more directly. While it is not explicitly stated in the curriculum, teaching safely as well as safety is a responsibility of PE teachers (Chappell, 2015; Robert, Danuta, & Danuta, 2015).

In addition, elementary school students are more likely to be exposed to the risk of safety accidents than adults or middle and high school students (Caine, Maffulli, & Caine, 2007). Because of the nature of the developmental process of elementary school students, they have great curiosity about their surroundings and their urge to explore their environment is strong. Due to these tendencies, their low level of judgment, self-regulation, and situational awareness place them at a higher risk of safety accidents than adults or adolescents (Micheli, Glassman, & Klein, 2000).

There has been much research conducted investigating the injuries that can occur in PE class or analyzing safety risk factors (Kelly, 1997; Lariosa et al., 2017; Severs, 2003). However, little research has been conducted to explore the perception and practice of safe PE classes from the perspective of PE teachers who teach students. There has also been insufficient research conducted on safety risk factors in PE classes for elementary school students, who are still undergoing physical development. Accordingly, the present study aimed to investigate elementary school PE teachers' assessments of safety risk factors in PE class, risk management, and difficulties in risk management. The following specific research questions were addressed in the study:

1. What safety risks in PE classes do specialist teachers assess?

2. How do specialist teachers teach safely and safety in PE classes?

3. What are the difficulties in teaching safely and safety in PE classes?

Material & Methods


First, an initial pool of participants was chosen of ten PE specialist teachers who were attending graduate schools and the PE specialist teachers they recommended. Then, in following the purposeful sampling method (Creswell, 2009), teachers from the initial pool who met certain criteria were chosen as study participants: full-time elementary school teacher, specialist PE teacher with five years of experience or more, and currently teaching PE class as a specialist PE teacher. Five teachers were chosen, and their specific backgrounds are given in Table 1. Five study participants belonged to a to a rural elementary school of a small city in Gyeongnam province located in the south of Korea, where summer temperatures are typically high and rainfall is abundant. …

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