Over the years, there were heated debates regarding physical education within the Malaysian syllabus. Many argued that the syllabus restricted the students' capacity and ability to expand their talents. How does our country work to support our national athletes? What does it take to build individuals of success in the sports arena? Questions arise from the doubts to secure our future generation with proper education to nurture them holistically. Too much of emphasis are placed on academic values instead of physical education. Somehow, physical education has been a taboo subject to be discussed or thought about during schooling years and it was meant to be set aside to focus solely on academic subjects. Hereby, we will further discuss on factors which causes demotivation as well as ideas to motivate students to take part in physical education.
Why students hate Physical Education (P.E.)?
There are major transitions from adolescence to adulthood in every student's life and a teacher is supposed to understand that transience of time because they themselves were once there in the growing up phase. When there is an outcome, somewhere along the line there is a positive or negative cause to every reaction. Ditto the students' interests towards physical education. Various factors believed to be the major influences of the student attitudes toward physical education. These include from the aspects of cultural, societal and school contexts.
Within the cultural context, gender is the main issue apart from idolization of their favourite sportsmen. As for the societal context, family, mass media, students' previous sporting experience or skill level, peers, previous physical education experiences and their own mentality play its respective roles towards explaining the students' attitudes because these factors had a great deal in affecting the students' self concept and self esteem. Lastly, the school context involves the teaching practices, curriculum, administration and school setting. More often, students expect most from physical education to be fun, challenging and easy to comprehend. They do not expect tedious learning to take place within the class due to heavy workload from other subjects. Most importantly, they expect physical education to be a sport and filled with targets or goals to achieve; at least a short term goal to them. Still within the school context, some teachers are not expertise in the area of P.E. thus leading themselves to low enthusiasm towards their teaching practices. Without much experience and confidence, there will be problems such as poor time management and overreacted classroom with plenty of students being out of control. In other sense, classroom management is at its worst. Besides that, the curriculum as devised by the Kementarian Pendidikan Malaysia will decide if P.E. could be conducted in the most effective manner. Curriculum which is lack of variety in content and context will bore students with minimal input. School administration with limited knowledge about P.E. will disregard P.E. as an important subject and held P.E. in low regard. Also, not forgetting the school setting which is supposed to be conducive in able to support the lesson. Limited equipment and facilities with unused or useless equipment will do more harm than good. With the size of the classroom around twenty (20) students or sometimes forty (40) students depending on different schools, there are doubts if each student is able to practice within the allocated time for P.E. Sometimes, teachers from other subjects may even "borrow" the period of P.E. to continue teaching their syllabus. However, such incident can be prevented if the P.E. teacher lays some firm ground rules revolving the period of physical education.
Digressing to numerous barriers to motivating students, source of motivation varies and a good P.E. teacher will understand the situation in order to find solutions for every problem. Students are usually low in attention span and lack in intrinsic motivation, which explains why they would prefer sports anytime than P.E. but a teacher has a responsibility to educate the students regarding the importance and benefits of P.E. The presence of excessive extrinsic motivation will lead to teacher focusing too much on the students' behaviours rather than in learning. In the long run, the students will tend to de-value the activities because of their perceptions of P.E. as another boring subject to complete in school. These beliefs will lead to expectations of P.E. being a supplementary instead of complementary subject. Many are brought up in this society to believe that P.E. was not a "real" subject. This belief coupled together with the others, will affect the students' attitude towards P.E. However, other external pressures such as weather and restriction in practice compound also play certain roles in placing the pressure on the students to act in a contradictory manner to their own true self.
How to Motivate Students to Take Part in Physical Education?
When the negative factors are identified, solutions will come into play to counteract the problems. All parties are included in the discussion of playing their respective roles to motivate students to be active in P.E. First hand, the integration of educational theory from (Bandura 1986) was applied to the P.E lesson, which is based on the Social Cognitive Theory. Indirectly, this theory comes in handy as guidance for teachers to carry out P.E. activities. Specifically, the targets focused in this specific program would particularly include self-monitoring, goal setting, social support, environmental aid, self-reinforcement, time-management, self-efficacy, and tailoring. The main concern was the components of cognitive and activity in P.E lesson. Herein, students will use workbooks as a start off activity from the beginning of the lesson. They are required to use the outlined ideas from class discussions for the completion of activities based on the topic of the day. Later on, the students will be lead on a more structured activity. Most activities are contained and selected from the Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia syllabus to be taught during P.E. lesson.
The Social Cognitive of Bandura emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others (Bandura, 1986). In self-monitoring, the students need to sustain physical activities which they undergo and there must be consistent effort in the students to track their own physical activity. Teacher will guide students to track their physical activity by using an activity log or journal. Some schools may provide pedometers but it is rarely found in public schools in Malaysia due to lack of equipments. In addition, teacher will make the students to come up with a fitness plan to help become active. Although self-monitoring requires high discipline amongst the students to diligently keep an honest record about their lifestyles.
Goal Setting and Self-reinforcement
Targets are crucial in P.E. to motivate students to set goals for physical activity. Often, incentives are used to reward a student's achievement of a short term goals or long term goals. Students learned on how long term goals are beneficial to them as well as set and break their long term goals into short term goals. Towards the end of the lesson, students were asked to reflect and feedback to the class about their goals. If needed, modification will be needed for the coming lessons.
Whereas when a student is able to internally evaluate and be rewarded on a desired behaviour (Bandura 1986), he or she is undergoing through self-reinforcement. There are two types of rewards that students learned: internal and external. Internal rewards could come in a form of satisfaction, feelings of accomplishment, etc. whereas external rewards include gift certificates and public praise. Teacher will discuss with students about ways of rewarding themselves if they had succeed. Therefore, students will decide and list down acceptable rewards. This way, students will work harder towards their long term and short term goals.
Positive comments can help break the barrier of negative behavior towards physical education. Social support for physical activity comes in the form of praise, direct help, or involvement in a behavior that is exhibited by family, friends, teachers or others. Teachers must bond closely to each of the students' parents if possible as a mutual understanding amongst one another. Dialogue and discussions are prerequisites for the success of physical education towards a better understanding. Another effort a teacher can put into encouraging a student is that he or she could ask the students to list their friends, family members or even pets to exercise with them on a regular basis. Equally important, the teacher could participate periodically with the students to show that he or she values the given activity. Naturally, teacher cannot regularly participate with the students but at least he or she could be a role model for the students to look up to. If a teacher is physically fit, the students will admire and possibly challenge to be fitter than the teacher himself! As a teacher, being humorous can be an added advantage to bond with the students. Students respect a teacher whom is serious when it comes to lessons and funny when they are about the have fun.
Once in awhile, the teacher conducts a survey in the class to comprehend the students' needs. That way, teacher could easily seek opinions to identify facilities and equipment (exercise equipments at home like bicycles) available to them, as well as identify their feelings towards exercising in their neighbourhood; if it is safe or not to them. Environmental aid comes in the convenience of facilities, equipment, or other resources that helps the student to being physically active regularly. The teacher could also organize a field trip or treasure hunt for students to search for locations or equipments made available to them to be physically fit. Another added benefit towards this way of learning is that the teacher prepares the students to utilize other equipments available; just in case if the school's storeroom is not available or equipments are at fault. Hence, physical activity is made possible anytime, anywhere.
Time-management in this context means that the students are able to allocate or find time for physical activities in order for them to be physically active on a regular basis. As one day physical activity, teacher will ask students to visualize how they will spend their time and then list down all the activities they will do. Then, students will need to allocate time to spend on these activities: light (e.g. walking), medium (jogging) and heavy (e.g. swimming) activities. Other than that, they are to list down how many hours spent on sedentary activities in comparison. Finally, the students have a clearer vision of how they could plan their physical activities in the future for their benefits. In this case, physical education can be applied under any circumstances no matter where the students are, whether they are still in school or outside the real-world. To include, this training will also benefit the classroom control when it comes to time management in school because most often, teachers are plagued with problems regarding the lack of time allocation to effectively conduct a proper P.E. lesson. Students are trained with stamina and if they are not, they could still cope with the activities introduced to them anytime during the lesson. There is no need to rush for completion of lesson in school because the teacher will guide the students to plan their own physical activity to be conducted anytime during their day.
To be self-efficacy, students need to be prepared with both knowledge and skills necessary to be physically active (e.g. knowledge of principles of fitness, skill in learning new activities). First of all, students must believe that they can engage in physical activity regularly. Self-efficacy is a form of intrinsic motivation as well because it is a mental belief that one can carry out a designed task required. In schools, teacher will carry out a standard fitness test (SEGAK) on the students. They will be evaluated on the components of fitness (muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition), and the FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type) principle. By knowing their fitness strength, they are able to outline a suitable physical activity plan. Since barriers to physical activity also impact a person's level of self-efficacy, common barriers to physical were listed, as well as ways to overcome the barriers. The teacher can relate the activities to students' lives. For example, current issues or events in relation to the students' lives or the rationale for each activity. Students are able to have a better understanding if meaningful contexts are being introduced in the lessons.
Students must be able to identify and be comfortable with the planned physical activities to be able to promote regular physical activity. To enjoy the intensities and duration of training, students need to find pleasure in tailoring for physical activity. In other words, their ability to accept with utmost pleasure and most willing way to endure the physical fitness is a way of tailoring for physical activity. A fitness profile worksheet was handed out to the students to students to identify their physical activity preferences (exercise alone, with others, in a class, in a competitive sport, etc). Then, they will include about activities they enjoy so they could complete a physical activity history. Other detailed elaboration acquired the student to write down past activities they had participated and stopped due to apparent reasons. Evaluation will be done on their histories and profiles and a physical activity plan will be created based on their preferences. Students also learned how to modify their physical activity, if it becomes too easy or too difficult for them. Students are trained to be their own personal coach to support lifelong learning in physical education. Hence, P.E. is no longer confined to the walls of the classroom or bound to the restrictions from various factors or authorities.
Of course, in every lesson feedback is almost a necessity to seek information from the teacher. In the beginning, most students are almost uncertain to what they are doing. When they do not know how they are doing, there is no motivation to improve. The teacher must devote some time to more individualized instruction for weak students who are struggling with skills. There's nothing more motivating than success so every student is required to see some results of success no matter what pace it takes for them to accomplish it. Thus, the aforementioned Bandura's theory has discussed about the ways to help motivate students but it does not only take up the teacher's efforts; the students themselves need to work on their efforts to see the results.
Always remember that a teacher's role to play is providing the best way of learning for the students. There is no guaranteed sole method to test the success of P.E. learning amongst students but there are in fact many methods available to incorporate into an effective learning in P.E. For example, it is better for the teacher to do modeling because learning visual is more effective compared to verbal instructions. At a glance, students comprehend better by registering the information perceived from what they have seen. This will enable them to develop a mental framework or filing system that will help them to learn better and remember more. At last, teacher must always not to forgo positive emotions during teaching and learning to enhance the enhance learning and motivation because strong and lasting memory is connected with the emotional state and experience of the students. Other than that, the teacher must be wise to vary the instructional methods and aids to conduct an effective training. Much preparation is needed in this part of teaching but the efforts will be worthwhile when the students are actively engaging in P.E.
Although the aforesaid method as proposed based on Bandura's theory, 1986 has help students to prepare themselves for the best in P.E, the implementation of the whole program will inevitably faced with some minor constraints. For instance, the class size could be an issue when it comes to classroom control and promoting more difficult tasks to various levels of fitness levels. Students are not usually used to completing worksheets during physical education, so there might be some initial resistance. However, since the worksheets often involve activity, students can adjust to the new program rather quickly. Other constraints may include equipments and personnel/ teacher in charge on the students. Students are held responsible for their participation in the activity. If students' grades were based on their participation in the program, students would be more likely to participate willingly in this program and cooperate at their best. No matter what setbacks the class or teacher may encounter, this program based on Bandura's theory, 1986 is designed to arm students with the necessary knowledge and skills to help them adopt physically active lifestyles for the present and future so that physical education will be a lifelong learning process towards building a physically active society throughout life.