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Sport Education And Participation

How is Physical Education in Primary education commonly taught?

“Physical education is an integral part of the educative process which uses physical activity as a primary means to promote psychomotor, cognitive, and socio-affective growth in order to enhance the quality of life” (Holst, 1993). Traditionally, physical education classes only focus on the psychomotor, or physical aspect of learning (Poynton, 1986). The idea nowadays is to address all domains of learning. Children like to move around a lot and this can be seen on the playing field of the school during breaks. It is important to preserve this active lifestyle and it is the main goal of the PE learning environment. To reach this goal, Dutch children in PE participate in a wide spectrum of activities. It consists of motor skills as well as social skills. Different aspects that they get confronted with are: balancing, jumping, climbing, running and moving to music. Also different games are utilized. (Kerndoelenboekje Rijksoverheid, 2006) There exists a guideline for the minimal amount of physical activity that is needed to live a healthy life designed by the Dutch Institute for healthy moving (NISB). This guideline is called the “Dutch norm of healthy moving” with the corresponding abbreviation NNGB. For kids of age 4 to 17, it is required to be active for at least an hour each day at moderate intensity. On average primary schools have PE classes 2 times a week for 45 to 60 minutes each session. In less than 5% of the schools, there is over 3 hours of PE each week, and in 20% of the schools there is only 1 hour PE each week (Reijgersberg, Werff, Lucassen, 2013). Classes are based around acquiring skills, improving health, improving fitness and all-round having fun. (SLO, 2016) Important is learning how to participate safely in different sports and activities during actual classes, but also during free play. Also very common is school swimming during Dutch primary education. In which students acquire a degree, that qualifies them as being able to swim. Examples of a regular 60 minute PE class in primary Dutch physical education would be a class based around different games. One of these games is called “box ball”. It is comparable to dodgeball, however it is based around a big box in the middle of each half of the court, where an orange cone is put on. The objective of both teams is to try to knock the other team’s cone over by throwing balls at it. Other games would be added to this class to fill up the time. Or a combination of sports and games are used.

Predominant teaching styles used during Physical Education in Primary Education

Mawer (1993) has highlighted that the teaching style of a Physical Education teacher should match the lesson content and the learning preferences of the students. It also seems clear that teaching styles have a significant role to play in personalized learning (Hopkins 2004). Research of Hopkins notes that individuals learn in variety of ways, so teaching should be based around the individual needs of children. To accomplish this goal, a variety of teaching styles might be required. However, Garn Byra suggest “that certain Spectrum teaching styles may be more desirable to use than others when working towards a specific learning domain”. Results from the research of Macfadyen and Cambell (2006) strongly suggest that reproductive (A to E) teaching styles are the most preferred teaching styles in Physical Education. OFSTED inspectors also found the use of a restricted range of teaching styles in PE. The negative side-effect of the low utilization of student centered learning is that it offers little opportunity for students to develop their own choices in PE. Mosston concludes that the practice style is one of the most common teaching strategies used in physical education. Finally, in the research of Curtner-Smith et. Al., (2001) they found that productive (styles F, G and H) styles might be considered too risky, “particularly given the time constraints within which most PE programs must operate”.

“Few fields are as rich in examples of the Command style as physical education” (Mosston Ashword, 2002 pp. 77). Concluding from these different studies researching PE in primary education, the predominantly used method of teaching PE at primary schools are the reproductive teaching styles. These correspond with the A to E teaching styles of the Mosston’s teaching styles and PE classes are mostly teacher centered. Respectively the command and practice style are the most commonly used teaching styles in Physical education. After these two, the C, D, and E teaching styles are also used pretty often.

Specific (other) teaching styles that are being used in The Netherlands during PE at primary school, are not found in the literature. However, based on my own experiences, it can be concluded that the Dutch primary physical education accords with the examples based around English primary education. Mostly teacher centered teaching was used during my own experiences with PE classes at primary school. The practice teaching style was really common in the learning process of certain skills and only in very rare instances student centered teaching styles were used.

Grouping practices in PE at primary school

Ability grouping in the form of setting was “perceived as a way to raise attainment and all primary schools were encouraged to introduce it” (Department for Education, 1993). Mixed ability classes are those where pupils are randomly placed in classes which causes a mix of different abilities. Based on the research of Hallam et. Al. (2003) “within class grouping is the most common form of grouping used in primary schools”. Teachers group pupils in a variety of ways. Some teachers seat pupils in ability groups for most of the classes, while others utilize mixed-ability or friendship groups. Within class grouping has been shown to be effective in raising attainment, especially in the later years of primary education and when class sizes are rather large (Lou et. Al, 1996). Pupils of low ability proft more from mixed ability groups than high ability pupils. From the study of Hallam, Ireson, Lister, Davies and Chaudhury, (2003), where they got the responses of 834 primary schools with the aid of a questionnaire about ability grouping, there was found that the “percentage of mixed ability groups within mixed ability classes for PE”, was ranging between 78% in year 6 and 81% in year 4. The “percentage of ability groups within mixed ability classes for PE” was as low as 5% over all years, compared to as high as 72% for Math and English. Concluding from this research, one could say that for PE in primary school, there are mostly mixed ability grouping practices and ability grouping within PE is not used very often (5% compared to 72% for Math).

PE is related to a decrease in childhood obesity and has all sorts of benefits.

Over the course of the past 30 years, there has been an increase in childhood obesity. Obesity among Children aged 6 to 11 years old has almost tripled. According to CDC, almost 12.5 million children with the age category 2 to 19 years old, are currently obese. Together with this increase, the rate of childhood health problems linked with obesity, such as hypertension and type II diabetes, has also increased over the years. This leads some people to believe that childhood obesity is a critical health threat, as these obese children are also more likely to be obese during adulthood.

Schools have the unique position to be an access point for students to start with physical activity and to get introduced with certain sports through physical education classes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “quality physical education can serve as the cornerstone of a comprehensive school-based physical activity program because it provides a unique opportunity for students to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain physically active lifestyles throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood”. The importance of PE classes is enormous in the development of an active lifestyle. Research indicates that increased physical activity together with an increase in physical education (PE) and sports participation, has a certain number of important benefits for primary and secondary education students. These benefits include: weight control and fat reduction, maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints and controlling blood pressure. (School-Based Physical Education and Sports Programs, 2012). Other benefits include the reduction of obesity (Janssen LeBlanc, 2010), while longer-term positive outcomes include the prevention of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Warburton, Nicol, Bredin, 2006). As mentioned before Physical education has a wide range of benefits for children, it provides them with an opportunity to improve social aspects as well as physical aspects. It does not only give them the opportunity to do something else outside of regular classes, it also introduces them to the enjoyment of playing sports, and gives them the opportunity to try out new sports, while also having all kinds of physical benefits.

Individual experiences in Physical Education

Personal experiences with physical education at primary school mostly correspond with the general description given at the first sub question. PE at primary school consisted of two times a week for 45-60 minutes. These compulsory classes were given at Wednesday and Friday. The classes consisted of multiple facets of sport, including: soccer, tennis, badminton, sprinting, baseball, korfball and different games which required active participation. Up until the fifth grade of primary school, it was mostly based around games of some sort, after that it was mostly based around actual sports. Depending on the weather and availability, the classes were given outside at our playing field, at our gym or at a different gym that was nearby. Predominantly the practice and command teaching style was used in these classes, although sometimes the teacher would use reciprocal/peer teaching, where we had to practice a certain skill in pairs of two. We would for instance have a situation in which we were shooting at the basket in basketball, one person shot ten times while the other person threw back the back the ball. After the ten shots you switch roles. Only in the last year of primary school, we had to perform a group dance routine, in which we had to make individual decisions on what we were going to perform at the final assessment. You could classify this as Individual teaching style (H). This corresponds with the earlier found data about teaching styles in PE at primary education, where the A to E teaching styles where mostly used in practice and styles A and B were the most common. This was also found in the research of Mosston and Ashworth (1994), “the practice style is one of the most common teaching strategies used in physical education”.

Some advantages of the practice and command styles are that they provide a very direct path to the objective; as a result, this gives the students a clear picture of how the expected performance is to be attained. Since the teacher chooses what will be taught and how the class will be arranged there is not much time wasted in organizing the class, thus making these methods a remarkably efficient and effective way to teach skills (Nichols, 1994). Due to the speedy organization associated with the command and practice styles, each is very beneficial when dealing with large crowds or limited time.

PE classes were mostly given in mixed ability. Although sometimes, for sports such as soccer, there were grouping practices based on gender because the boys were considered of a much higher skill level than the girls. In practice it would be something like this: first we would play soccer in mixed ability teams, so that every single student actively participated during the classes. Near the end of the hour there would be a few final games in which there would be new teams, of boys against boys, and girls vs girls. This was most likely done to satisfy the “highly” skilled players of these certain sports.

The before mentioned outcome measures, regarding the reduction of obesity and leading to all sorts of other benefits, were also noticed during my personal experiences. I don’t think a single person in my class was (extremely) overweight, and at least 80% of my class was considered “athletic”. Everyone actively participated during PE classes, and I do think this participation has lead to an increase of fitness. Further benefits were the introduction to certain sports, providing a guideline for an increased active lifestyle and creating the enjoyment for actively participating in all kinds of sports. I do believe PE has accommodated and further increased my interest for sports and I think that PE during childhood is extremely important. With an increase in sedentary living for the current generation children, and an increase in the use of smartphones and games instead of playing outside, the importance of PE will further increase in making and keeping children physically active and healthy.

Children with DCD in sports

Children with DCD are not unaffected by their difficulties and have been reported to have lower self-esteem. Studies in DCD have shown that children perceive themselves as less competent than their peers, not only in the domain of physical play (athletic competence), but also in several other domains including physical appearance and social acceptance (Rasmussen Gillberg, 2000). Children with DCD have also been shown to be more likely to have a higher rate of health problems than children in the general population (Sigurdsson, van Os Fombonne, 2002). In general, the research on progression in children with DCD concludes that, without intervention, the majority of children do not outgrow the condition. (Sigurdsson et. Al, 2002; Cantell et al, 2003; Morton, 2004; Polatajko et. Al, 1995) As a direct consequence of their motor difficulties, children with DCD tend to avoid physical activity. DCD has been referred to as a “playground disorder” (Cairney, Hay, Faught, Wade, Corna Flouris, 2005) because children with DCD suffer the most motor physically and this is mostly exposed during playtime in between classes.

Unfortunately, the problem is commonly unrecognized and undiagnosed. This is surprising because most prevalence estimates suggest that between 5% and 9% of all school-age children meet the diagnostic criteria for DCD (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Kadesjo Gillberg, 1999). This would rank it among the most common childhood disorders. Therefore, the inclusion of this subgroup might be of a rather large importance. According to the research of Cairneys et. Al., Children with the disorder are five times as likely to be in the low-fitness group.

Research of Cairney et. Al. (2007) also revealed that children with DCD demonstrate lower levels of CRF and that lower CRF persists among children with the disorder up to 14 years of age. This evidence suggests that DCD is associated with lower CRF across all age groups (9–14). Children with DCD are much more likely (61%) than their non-DCD peers to have predicted peak VO2 scores in the bottom 20th percentile. Children with DCD are seldom recognized or diagnosed, and, as a result, their problems are often ineffectively managed. Because of this, children with DCD are a particularly important population to examine. The presence of lower CRF among children with DCD is of particular concern because it suggests that these children may be on a trajectory towards poorer cardiovascular health as they age.

How can the inclusion of children with DCD be facilitated and how can differences be better dealt with?

Although there is a wide variation within children with DCD (Henderson Barnett, 1998), corollary their diverse individual needs, children with DCD have two core needs in common: the acquisition of motor skills and the maintenance of self-esteem (Spitzer, Gibbon, Skodol, Williams, First, 1994).

Sherrill (1998) recommends adapting teaching styles to individual needs and suggests prescribing the command teaching style for students with severe cognitive, behavioral, emotional, or pervasive developmental disorders. However, no specific prescription of teaching style was made for children with DCD (Miyahara, Wafer, 2004).

Motor competence will affect their willingness to participate in a movement-learning situation as well as their ability to evaluate their own performance realistically (Henderson Sugden 1992). This explains why such children need intervention to teach them certain strategies. Wall et. Al. (1990) indicated that an important objective in their instructional progress should be the designing of strategies to encourage them to practice effectively on their own or with supportive others, not only during scheduled instruction but also during their free time. They also need to be taught how to use the equipment, apparatus and physical layout of their environment, indoors and outdoors, to facilitate their own skill learning (Wall et al. 1990). Mandich and colleagues (2001) further proposed that treatment methods must be based on the assumption that skill acquisition emerges from the interaction of the child, the task and the environment. This interaction between these three aspects is comparable to Newell’s constraint model. Some adaptions have to be made in these 3 fields in order to comply with the needs of children with DCD. From the article of Kirby and Sugden (2007), it was found that task-oriented approaches are preferred over process oriented approaches because “the task, often determined through consultation with parents and the child, is taught directly, sometimes broken down into component parts” (Shoemaker Smits-Englesman, 2015). In an analysis of the different approaches, the task-oriented approaches are more successful and should be implemented by pediatricians running children’s services.

The motor-based intervention program (consisting of task-specific, kinesthetic and sensory integration methods), in comparison to a psychological intervention and an integrated psycho-motor intervention, contributed to the biggest change in the children’s motor proficiency. (Peens, Pienaar Nienaber, 2007). From the research of Kirby, Sugden, Peens, Pienaar and Nienaber, it can be concluded that there should be a focus on the task instead of the whole (process) for children with DCD. Although there is not any conclusive evidence indicating a preferred teaching style for children with DCD, they should be taught around strategies that encourage and enable them to practice on their own. A possible teaching style to guide this process, might be self check. This would allow them to engage in physical education and practice certain traits by going through each step of the process and “checking these of the list provided by the teacher”. This also allows them to practice on their own, learn and self reflect.

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.

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