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A common phrase used by the general public is that “a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.” One of the major health issues facing the United States is obesity, not only in adults, but many children as well. It is important that people strive for a healthy lifestyle to combat being overweight or obese.
There are many benefits physical education provides today’s students and society. Within a school setting, a physical education program can serve society in many ways if implemented and utilized appropriately. There are many areas physical education can serve and positively affect students and society. One is overall physical fitness. For example, physical education helps students and society improve skill-related components such as speed, agility, reaction time, balance, coordination, and basic movement patterns. Physical education helps students and society improve upon are strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular/respiratory activities. The American Heart Association (AHA, 2010) recommends that if children and adolescents want to increase their life expectancies, they need to eat healthier and become physically active. Doing those two things will help children and adolescents defend against certain diseases and other health problems. Hence, the question: why is there little emphasis on the importance of physical education in today’s schools?
Background of the Study
This phenomenological research study investigated the indirect impact of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Grant used by middle school and high school physical education teachers in a semi-rural school district in the state of
Ohio. This was a federally funded project by the United States Department of Education. The primary purpose of this PEP Grant was to assist this school district’s physical education teachers in implementing a program that would ensure that students would improve their overall physical fitness. Instead of focusing on the traditional sport education model, which involves learning team sports, the intention of this PEP grant was to focus more on enhancing students’ physical fitness and increasing participation in moderate and vigorous physical activity.
According to Mood, Jackson, and Morrow (2007), children should be engaged in moderate physical activity for thirty minutes per day for five or more days per week and vigorous physical activity for twenty minutes per day for three or more days per week. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) (2011) stated that elementary students should be participating in 150 minutes of physical activity a week and middle and high school students should be participating in physical activity for 225 minutes a week. According to The School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2006 study, only 3.8% of elementary schools, 7.9% middle schools, and 2.1% high schools provided daily physical education in the United States. There were several goals for the middle school and high school students involved with this PEP grant. These goals included student improvement in (a) time involved in moderate to rigorous physical activity, (b) nutrition habits, (c) body composition, (d) flexibility, (e) aerobic capacity, and (f) muscular strength and endurance. The other goal directly involved the physical education teachers in this school district. The PEP grant provided the opportunity to pursue professional development opportunities which allowed them to better understand the changes that needed to be made in their classes regarding curriculum and class management. Furthermore, and more importantly, the professional development opportunities were intended to enhance their instruction.
The Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a federally-funded PEP grant on a physical education program in a semi-rural school district. The three major areas that this study investigated were (a) characteristics of an effective physical education program, (b) physical education teachers’ motivation to improve instruction, and (c) peoples’ perceptions of physical education in today’s schools. The three major research questions that emerged from this study were (1) What are the characteristics of an effective physical education program? (2) What motivates physical education teachers to improve their instruction? (3) How do people perceive the field of physical education? The phenomenological study investigated the PEP Grant and its effects on the physical education curriculum and program. Furthermore, it investigated the various assessments that could be used to accurately evaluate a student’s overall physical fitness.
A chronic issue physical education combats in the United States is childhood, adolescent, and adult obesity. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated using a person’s weight and height. Obesity may lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and Type II diabetes. Research has found that obese children and adolescents are likely to become obese as adults. According to the Centers of Disease Control Prevention’ s (CDC) National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES), there has been an increase in obesity in the United States, especially from 1985 to 2010. As of 2010, 36 states had an obesity rate of 25 percent and 12 of those states had an obesity rate of 30 percent or higher. One-third of United States adults are considered to be obese. Also, 17 percent or 12.5 million children and adolescents in the United States between the ages of two and 19 years old are obese. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2010) reported that close to 32 percent of children and adolescents are overweight with a body mass index at or above the eighty-fifth percentile and more than 16 percent are obese with a body mass index at or above the ninety-fifth percentile. These statistics reported by the AAP (2010) are provided by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Along with the health problems and diseases mentioned above, the AAP (2010) warned that children and adolescents who are overweight have an increased risk of asthma, sleep apnea, skin infections, joint pain and other health conditions as they get older. These statistics are overwhelming and an excellent indication that physical education programs must come to the forefront to educate and promote the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet.
Physical education teachers are responsible for promoting a healthy and positive environment for learning. A healthy positive environment can be created and maintained especially if a physical education teacher provides constructive and positive feedback. In addition, if a physical education teacher is prepared, provides well-organized activities, and establishes clear expectations, students will usually respond to the environment in a positive manner. Physical education provides students the opportunity to enhance their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. This usually occurs during team sports, project adventure activities, problem-solving and physical fitness activities (McCaughtry, Kulinna, & Cothran, 2009).
According to Chiodera, Volta, Gobbi, Milioli, Mirandola, Bonetti, Delsignore, Bernasconi, Anedda, and Vitale (2008), physical inactivity is related to increased levels of body fat and as a result childhood obesity. These researchers argued that preventive measures should be taken at a young age in order to reduce future health risk factors. Furthermore, they found that students who engage in daily physical activity within the school setting will achieve the health benefits they need to be physically fit more so than those students which do not engage in daily physical activity throughout the school day. According to Evenson, Ballard, and Ammerman, (2009), in the year 2007, only 35 percent of high school students in the United States were physically active for one hour on five or more days in the previous week. In addition, high school students who attended physical education class dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 30 percent in 2007. As a result, in 2007, 25 states enacted laws or adopted policies to address physical education in the schools. Furthermore, these researchers found that teachers have reported positive results regarding students being more alert and focused during class after participating in physical activity. Teachers also reported that 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day has not had any negative effects on student academic performance.
Moreno, Gonzalez-Cutre, Martin-Albo, and Cervello (2010) find that intrinsic motivation for middle and high school students is a key factor in motivating students to make improvements in physical education class. Furthermore, these researchers stated that if physical education teachers give students a reason to believe that they can make improvements in their abilities, then there is an increase in intrinsic motivation. Chen and Ennis (2004), suggested a couple more ideas to motivate students. These researchers have found that providing students with goals gives them direction on what will meet their individual physical skill and fitness needs. Furthermore, they stated the importance of relating physical education classes to student interests. As a result, students will be more motivate to participate in physical education class. These are just a few ideas given to show the importance of motivating students in physical education class. In order to implement these motivational techniques and other teaching methods, physical education teachers need to pursue professional development opportunities to enhance their instruction and teacher knowledge in the field of physical education. According to Cothran and Kullina (2008), teacher knowledge is a major factor to effective teaching. It is imperative for physical education teachers to effectively use the resources they have available. With a declining economy and declining school budgets, physical education teachers will need to learn to adapt to the resources they have available.
As we are aware the United States is facing economic problems, which has affected education in more ways than one. According to Schneider, Konukman, Ferman, and Stier (2010), physical education programs throughout the United States are feeling the negative effects of the current financial crisis the country is facing. Some of the negative effects include limiting resources and equipment, cutting costs in the budget, as a result, hindering professional development opportunities, and laying-off or cutting teachers. Schneider, Konukman, Ferman, and Stier (2010), noted that during these difficult financial times, physical education teachers need to maintain a high morale, be versatile with their instruction, and take on other roles within the school. Regarding versatility, these researchers state that physical education teachers need to be innovative, flexible, and persuasive. They stated that physical education teachers have to rely on their creative skills to stimulate positive class environments regardless if they lack state-of-theart equipment and/or supplies to stimulate their students. Furthermore, they pointed out that physical education teachers need to take a flexible and innovative approach to teaching because of the constant changes in the classroom and work environment as a result of budget cuts due to the recession. Finally, these researchers stated that physical education teachers have to have the ability to persuade their students that goals and objectives can still be met regardless of the lack of state-of-the-art exercise equipment and/or supplies. The ability of physical education teachers to be creative and provide a positive environment alleviates any recognition regarding state-of-the-art equipment and supplies within schools.
Professional Significance of the Study
As it has been noted throughout this first chapter, physical education serves many purposes for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Obesity is a growing concern with today’s children, adolescents, and adults. Physical activity is imperative in order to defend against being overweight or obese. Effective physical education teachers and physical education programs are essential in motivating students to be physically active. Motivating students to be physically active can be done in several ways. First, physical education teachers need to think about developing a curriculum that meets the needs of students. Second, they need to adjust their teaching methods to meet the goals, needs, and interests of students. The ability of physical education teachers to be innovative and flexible also is a contributing factor to increased student participation in physical activity (Martin, McCaughtry, & Cothran, 2009). Third, providing constant feedback and reinforcement will create a positive environment and encourage students to participate in physical activity and improve their overall physical fitness (Chase, Lirgg, & Sakelos, 2003). Last, according to Martin, McCaughtry, and Cothran (2009), whenever possible or when the time is appropriate, physical education teachers need to pursue professional development opportunities.
It is necessary to investigate ways to continue to improve physical education programs and provide students and the school community with ways to live healthy lifestyles. It is imperative to investigate what motivates physical education teachers to improve their instruction. This is imperative because once these motivational factors are determined, then schools can look at what further needs to be done to meet the needs of physical education teachers to help them improve their instruction. As a result, students will benefit from improved instruction. Last, investigating peoples’ perceptions of the field of physical education may assist physical education teachers in how to promote the quality of their physical education programs and prove that there may be misconceptions about the field.
This study was intended to further increase peoples’ knowledge of the importance of the field of physical education in today’s schools. Through interviews, observations, and focus group meetings with five middle school and high school physical education teachers, the researcher intended to further enhance people’s understanding of the importance and role physical education plays in today’s schools.
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