Should the Main Objective of Adapted Physical Education Be the Development of Motor Skills or the Development of Self-Esteem?

JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Should the Main Objective of Adapted Physical Education Be the Development of Motor Skills or the Development of Self-Esteem?


The development of motor skills should be the main objective of adapted physical education. However, I also believe that the development of self-esteem should be a natural "by-product" of an effective adapted physical education setting. The main objective of general physical education is the development of motor skills, so why should it be any different for adapted physical education. As physical educators, our main objective is to help all students develop the physical skills and abilities that will enable them to become successful movers and active for the rest of their life. I hope that adapted physical educators do not succumb to the busy, happy, "feel good" philosophy of some general physical educators.

Jennifer Faison-Hodge, assistant professor, Health and Sport Sciences, Capital University, Columbus, OH.

Why do we have to set up a system where there has to be a choice between motor skills and self-esteem? Why can't we set up a "can-do" system? All students can do something, and we need to start by making lists of what they can do. An accomplishment can be something as simple as an eye gaze in the direction of a ball or hitting 25 free throws. After this we can set goals based on what students can do and how far they can advance during a class. This is a critical aspect since the goals must be high enough for students to work toward and easy enough that they can achieve them in the allotted time. If the goals are made correctly, students can achieve them by working on their motor skills, thus increasing their self-esteem. So, the answer is to increase self-esteem by working on motor skills.

Judy Christiansen, student, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO.

Based on my 19 years of experience as a creative movement instructor, I firmly believe that the main objective of adapted physical education should be the development of self-esteem. That has been my experience when dealing with students from preschool through third grade, particularly in an "inclusion" setting with children having a wide variety of physical challenges. My mission has always been to devise physical activities that foster an "I can do it" attitude. These activities are always based on the child's level of mobility. Once the development of enhanced self-esteem is achieved, the students are more eager to participate in more challenging activities, which often results in improved motor development. It's icing on the cake!

JoAnne Matthews-Saunders, creative movement specialist, V. I. Resource Center for the Disabled, St. Thomas/St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The question of a main objective in any class is not independent, and it cannot be easily answered with only one of the two given options. I believe that within an adapted physical education class the development of motor skills and self-esteem are interdependent. The goal in physical education class is to succeed on a personal level. Beginning skill levels vary with each individual. With this in mind, the teacher must allow the students to challenge themselves and gain the knowledge, understanding, and self-esteem that they need to perform a specific skill.

In order to assist in the development of motor skills, self-esteem is vital. Few individuals, whether or not they have a disability, are willing to try new concepts, and they are even less likely to try them while surrounded by their peers. The idea of "failing" is not a concept that anyone embraces. When we encourage students to begin at a level that feels comfortable to them, it allows them to look internally and to work toward improvement. Motor skill development is critical to those students in adapted physical education to assist them in everyday life. By successfully developing motor skills, a person's self-esteem increases due to his or her growing independence and achievement in physical education.

Johnna Kay, physical education student, Capital University, Columbus, OH. …

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