Effects of a Curriculum and Inservice Program on the Quantity and Quality of Elementary Physical Education Classes

By McKenzie, Thomas L.; Sallis, James F. et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Effects of a Curriculum and Inservice Program on the Quantity and Quality of Elementary Physical Education Classes


McKenzie, Thomas L., Sallis, James F., Faucette, Nell, Roby, Julia J., Kolody, Bohdan, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


A basic function of physical education is to engage learners in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), a requirement for experiencing both health and motor skill development benefits. By providing opportunities for physical activity, quality physical education can make important contributions to public health (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). The key role of physical education in children's health was recognized in the The Year 2000 Health Objectives (McGinnis, Kanner, & DeGraw, 1991; U.S. Public Health Service, 1991). One objective calls for increasing the proportion of children who participate regularly in daily physical education. Another calls for the amount of time that students are active during physical education lessons to be increased to at least 50%, preferably in lifetime physical activities. Large amounts of activity time during physical education are associated with curricula that emphasize cardiovascular fitness development (McKenzie, Sallis, & Nader, 1991). The amount of physical activity in physical education lessons is related to the type of sport (Metzler, 1980), with gymnastics and softball typically having low activity engagement. Additionally, specific instructional behaviors have been identified that promote and motivate higher levels of participation and activity (Taggart, 1985). Active teaching behaviors such as modeling, prompting, and reinforcing have received general support in the physical education literature for their success in promoting participation and learning (Siedentop, 1991).

While nearly all children in the United States are enrolled in physical education in elementary schools (Ross, Dotson, Gilbert, & Katz, 1985; Ross, Pate, Corbin, Delpy, & Gold, 1987), not all receive instruction of sufficient quantity and quality to produce fitness and motors kill development (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Simons-Morton, O'Hara, Parcel, & Baranowski, 1990). Numerous studies indicate that students in classes of physical education specialists spend large amounts of class time being inactive (Metzler, 1989; Silverman, 1991). That inactivity is related to the curricular choices that teachers make and to their instructional behaviors (Faucette, McKenzie, & Patterson, 1990).

Many physical education curricula are available, and they vary widely in philosophy, theoretical basis, and instructional methods. For most of the 20th century, the dominant physical education curricula have emphasized skill-related (athletic) fitness or movement education, though developmental, humanistic, and personal meaning curricula also have been promoted (Steinhardt, 1992). In the past 10 to 15 years, the emphasis has begun to shift to the effects of physical education on the health of children, as the important health effects of physical activity have become documented (Blair, Clark, Cureton, & Powell, 1989; Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). Health-related physical education programs have sought to promote fitness components of cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility (Simons-Morton, O'Hara, Simons-Morton, & Parcel, 1987), as well as establish a pattern of physical activity that may carry over to adulthood and reduce the risk of chronic diseases (Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). Several studies have demonstrated that health-related physical education curricula in elementary schools can increase physical activity during class (Simons-Morton, Parcel, & O'Hara, 1988), improve cardiovascular fitness (Duncan, Boyce, Itami, & Paffenbager, 1983), and improve cardiovascular disease risk factors (Dwyer, Coonan, Leitch, Hetzel, & Baghurst, 1983). However, the curricula in these studies were not comprehensive approaches to physical education. The curriculum developed as part of the present study was designed to be comprehensive, with an emphasis on health outcomes. Thus, it was developed to meet several criteria. First, it should promote high levels of physical activity for all children, regardless of skill level. …

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