This report analyzes changes in a traditional physical education curriculum in an inner-city high school. The analysis is based on my 14-week participant observation of classes and interviews with a veteran physical educator (Mary) who experienced community and curriculum changes during her 26-year tenure. A written chronological research narrative was examined through a framework that delineates the nature of curriculum discourses and student social capital for schooling. The findings show that the curriculum is failing because negative social changes have denied students’ access to necessary social capital for successful learning. Mary emphasized a curriculum discourse of control based on a belief of dual-responsibility that dichotomizes educational opportunity into responsibility of control for teachers and responsibility of learning for students. A grounded theory developed from the case suggests that the physical education curriculum should emphasize transformation of knowledge and skills, the person, and community culture rather than reproduction of the “official knowledge” (Apple, 1993).
School is an environment where children and adolescents spend most of their time during the day. The environment is characterized by a sedentary culture necessary for academic learning. In this article, I present research evidence showing the effects of four physical activity opportunities in this environment: school athletics, recess, classroom physical activity breaks, and physical education. Based on an analysis of research evidence on the four opportunities, I propose that the efforts to promote the opportunities should be coordinated into a concerted action to integrate a physical activity-friendly culture in the sedentary environment. Using an example of China's whole-school physical activity promotion strategy, I identify four areas for us to continue to work on: legislature-based policies, physical education as core content, creation and maintenance of physical activity traditions in schools, and integration of physical activity-friendly culture into the sedentary school environment.
A theoretical framework distinguishing meaning and meaningfulness guided this study of high school students’ conceptions of meaningfulness in physical education. A 9-dimensional meaningfulness construct was developed through analyzing former high school students’ (N = 35) oral reflection on physical education. A 9-dimensional meaningfulness scale was prepared and administered to high school students (N = 698). The principal component analysis reduced the students’ responses to a 6-dimensional construct: Social Bonding, Cultural Appreciation, Challenge, Tension Release, Fitness Development, and Self-Expression. The construct was modified through confirmatory factor analyses and had a Goodness of Fit Index of .91. The reconstruction demonstrated sophisticated internalization of perceived meaning by students. AMANOVA revealed that the students’ conceptions of meaningfulness differentiated (p < .05) based on gender, grade, and socioeconomic status. The findings suggest that a pluralistic perspective be considered in curriculum design, given the sophistication and differentiation of students’ conceptions of meaningfulness in physical education.
Senlin Chen and Ang Chen
Expectancy beliefs and task values are two essential motivators in physical education. This study was designed to identify the relation between the expectancy-value constructs (Eccles & Wigfield, 1995) and high school students’ physical activity behavior as associated with their energy balance knowledge. High school students (N = 195) in two healthful-living programs (i.e., combination of physical and health education) responded to measures of expectancy-value motivation, energy balance knowledge, in-class physical activity, and after-school physical activity. The structural equation modeling confirmed positive impact from expectancy beliefs and interest value to in-class physical activity (Path coefficient range from .19 to .26, ps < .01). Cost perception was found exerting a negative impact on after-school physical activity but a positive one on lower level of understanding of energy balance (Path coefficient range from -.33 to -.39, ps < .01). The findings painted a complex but meaningful picture about the motivational impact of expectancy-value constructs on physical activity and energy balance knowledge. School healthful-living programs should create motivational environments that strengthen students’ expectancy beliefs and interest value and alleviate their negative perceptions and experiences.
Bo Shen and Ang Chen
Using the model of domain learning as a theoretical framework, the study was designed to examine the extent to which learners’ initial learning profiles based on previously acquired knowledge, learning strategy application, and interest-based motivation were distinctive in learning softball. Participants were 177 sixth-graders from three middle schools. A hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted to determine what kinds of learning profiles would result from the interactions among prior knowledge, learning strategies, and interest. The results revealed that individual learners could be classified into subgroups with distinctive learning characteristics. It is supported that learning in physical education is a progressive process that involves both cognitive and affective dimensions. An effective physical education curriculum should address both knowledge and skill acquisition and motivation simultaneously.
Haichun Sun and Ang Chen
Self-determination theory (SDT), when applied in education, emphasizes helping learners internalize extrinsic motivation so as to regulate their learning behavior from an amotivation state to intrinsic motivation. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between SDT components and learning in middle school physical education. Sixth grade students (n = 242) from 15 randomly selected schools provided data on SDT and their knowledge and skill learning achievement as assessed using a pre- and post-measurement design. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that extrinsically regulated motivations and intrinsic motivation contributed little to knowledge and skill achievement and amotivation negatively related to knowledge improvement. Given the fact that the data represented learner responses to an activity centered program, the findings imply that when learning objectives are vague, learners may be motivated to participate in classes but their participation may not contribute much to knowledge and skill achievement.
Ang Chen and Weimo Zhu
A physically active or inactive lifestyle begins with intuitive interest at a very young age. This study examined the impact of selected personal, school, and home variables on young children’s intuitive interests in physical and sedentary activities.
National data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (US Department of Education) were examined using Cohen’s d, hierarchical log-linear analyses, and logistic regression.
Children’s interest in physical activity is accounted for fractionally by personal variables, but substantially by school and home variables including number of physical education classes per week, teacher experiences of teaching PE, and neighborhood safety.
School and home environment variables have stronger impact than personal variables on children’s intuitive interest in physical activity. Future interventions should focus on strengthening school physical education and providing a safe home environment to help nurture young children’s intuitive interest in physical activity.
Ang Chen and Xinlan Liu
The expectancy-value theory postulates that motivation relies on individuals’ beliefs of success, perceived Attainment, Intrinsic Interest, and Utility values and Cost. This study examined Chinese college students’ expectancy-value motivation in relation to physical education and self-initiated physical activity.
A random sample of 368 Chinese university students responded to questionnaires on perceived expectancy beliefs, perceived values, and cost in terms of their experiences in mandatory physical education programs and in self-initiated after-school physical activity. They reported their choice decisions for continuing physical education. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, χ 2, logistic and linear regressions.
The physical education curriculum was perceived as a major cost to motivation. Motivated by the Intrinsic Interest and Utility value, most students chose to continue to take physical education. Self-initiated after-school physical activity was motivated by the Attainment value only. No association was found between self-initiated physical activity and Liking or Disliking of physical education.
Motivation for physical education and for self-initiated physical activity derived from different perceived values. The Attainment value motivates the students for self-initiated physical activity, whereas Intrinsic Interest and Utility values motivate them to choose to continue physical education.
Ang Chen and Xinlan Liu
The expectancy-value motivation theory postulates that motivation can be achieved when perceived values in an activity override perceived cost of the activity derived from the effort of achieving. This study was designed to examine types of perceived cost in physical education and the extent to which the cost might affect motivation. Data about attainment, intrinsic, and utility values in physical education were collected using surveys from college students (n = 368) in China. Perceived cost was investigated through open-ended written responses and interviews. Disappointment about the curriculum emerged as a major cost to motivation and lack of student autonomy was identified as a direct demotivating factor. Despite the cost, most of the students (92%) indicated they would, if given a choice, elect to continue physical education for health benefits and broader motivational impact in life, suggesting that strong positive values of physical activity might override the impact of cost. The findings suggest the importance of emphasizing positive values of physical activity in physical education.