The Status Of Physical Education Education Essay

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A recurring theme from all of the inspections was that a high quality of teaching and learning was noted. This high standard was down to a number of different reasons such as the sharing of learning intentions prior to teaching; positive systematic approaches taken to the organisation, classroom management of activities and to the delivery of all lessons. It was noted however in a number of schools that some of the teachers delivering the PE syllabus did not have the required qualifications and that a review of each schools procedure for the deployment of teachers needs be looked at.

In a study carried out by Starc and Strel (2012) it was found that teachers' higher competencies in both planning and delivering of PE lessons helped contribute positively to children's physical fitness. Also according to Duvivier et al. (2009) being passionate about teaching, knowledgeable and delivering high standard of care are vital in a good teacher. This suggests that specialist PE teachers are more effective than generalist teachers in delivering PE classes irrespective of the learning environment, facilities and equipment available.

Therefore it is of the author's belief that provision should be implemented to ensure that PE is only thought by someone with the required qualifications to do so in comparison to generalised teachers in the school system. This is important in today's society because a considerable part of children's physical activity is presently allocated to regular physical education classes in schools due to parental concern for safety (Kalish et al 2010) and economic pressures (Hardy et al 2010) . That is why we have to strive to ensure that they are being exposed to the best practices of physical education as much as possible because PE is the only educational experience which focuses on the body, its movement and also a student's ability to learn to respect and value their own bodies and abilities (O' Sullivan 2007)

The Third Report on the Status of Physical Education (2005) noted

"It is a simple fact that Ireland lags behind other nations in the provision of physical Education. The time allocation, financial allocation, original training, on-going training and on-going improvement of the PE infrastructure is considerably less than in most countries."

Another issue that arose from the readings was the topic of time allocation and resources to physical education in schools. While most schools were deemed to have adequate to high standards of facilities there were a number of things recommended that could improve physical education in schools. The idea of networking with other stakeholders in the community has been floated around for several years. We have to come up with creative structures and policies to allow the co-location of school and community facilities (O' Sullivan 2007). This idea is now being implemented at local level especially in the author's own local area. Planning permission has been granted for a facility to be built only a few hundred yards from the school that can cater for a wide variety of sports while also being made available to the local GAA clubs in the evenings. This will ensure that maximum use is going to be made of the facility and is something that should be replicated throughout the country.

The allocation of time was a problem in a number of the schools that were investigated. This was backed up by The Women in Sport Report (2004) which stated that "Physical Education in primary and secondary schools is under resourced".

The National Taskforce on Obesity (2005) also commented on the role of physical education and states that all schools should meet the minimum requirements of 2 hours of physical education per week delivered by the appropriately qualified staff which reinforces the previous views of the author on the issue of teaching standards. This was not met in one particular school where they was limited or no access to physical education for students in some year groups. This is because some principal stakeholders in these schools believe that students should have more time to focus on their academic studies. However research evidence has highlighted that having children spend more time actively engaged in physical education does not negatively impact academic achievement (O' Sullivan 2007). The author has also witnessed this personally where he did not have access to PE in both junior and leaving certificate years. The author believes that Ireland should follow the example of several other countries that have brought in provision to help promote physical education in both primary and secondary education.

In the UK there has been investment in both sport and physical education that has never been seen before. Between the years 2002-2004 the Government have invested over €1 billion into Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links Strategy (PESSCL) while also running the National Professional Programme initiative. The overall aim is to increase the overall % of students participating in 2 hours or more of high quality PE per week from 25% in 2002 to 85% by 2008 (O' Sullivan 2007). However in August of 2012 it was revealed that the Department of Education is no longer forcing state schools to provide 2 hours of PE and Sport highlighting the lowering status of PE in today's society. The Australian and New Zealand governments have also invested large quantities of money in creating new initiatives and programmes to help increase the position of PE in their education system. Australia developed the "Active After School Communities" (AASC) where they provide free primary school aged children access to well-structured physical activity and in New Zealand they created the SPARC under the Sport and Recreation New Zealand Act, 2002. SPARC was initially begun as a response to "a societal need to combat low levels of children's physical activity and physical fitness" (McKenzie et al 2009). These examples help show the way Ireland can make positive changes to Physical Education provision by using a multiagency approach.

The theme that was most prominent throughout all of the inspections was the conclusion of the identification of learning outcomes for each year group and further development of the assessment process should be included in the subject plan. In order to do this schools should take a more student centred teaching approach. In using this approach learners can actively participate in the decision making process about what to learn and suggest how to teach it best (Bery & Sharp 1999). Many of the great philosopher's such as Piaget, Gardner etc. have mentioned the benefits of experiential, hands on student centred learning and it is this approach that should be promoted through the introduction of provision.

Peer teaching is a method mentioned in a number of the inspections that should be used more often in the schools. Several guidelines have been described for teachers to structure peer interaction and for students to find their role in the interaction process, emphasizing the cooperation of equally capable peers (King, 2002). A method which the author believes should be utilised to a far greater degree is that of reciprocal teaching. The reciprocal style of teaching (Mosston and Ashworth 2002) is one of the most commonly used peer learning formats in physical education. The extent of peer learning in the reciprocal style of teaching is specifically the provision of feedback from one learner to another (Byra 2006). The implementation of student-centred instructional formats requires a conceptual shift in teacher functioning (Fullan 1999), resulting in altered management, instruction and planning (Dyson and Rubin 2003). These formats occasionally force teachers to operate outside their comfort zones which can lead to the inability or unwillingness of teachers to delegate responsibility to students (Cohen, 1994). That is why we need to think more carefully about the provision of the continuous professional development of our teachers. O' Sullivan (2007) mentions a number of different ideas such as courses being made available to teachers who wanted to specialise in Physical Education and the author believes that these ideas should be looked at more closely.

The second part of this involves the development of assessment procedures to match the learning outcomes of the class. Assessment in physical education helps to inform teaching and learning by providing information on what students have learned and how they learn (Curriculum Online 2012). It is important that schools identify what should be assessed in physical education classes. The curriculum encourages the selection of a balanced and broad programme of PE and assessment should reflect this approach. Assessment techniques used should assess progress in all aspects of the programme covered in order to ensure validity of assessment. At the moment assessment of physical education is at the stated policy stage rather than the actual policy stage in the author's opinion. We say that we will assess the holistic development of the students but the truth of the matter is we normally just assess the psychomotor aspects of PE because they are the easiest to assess. One method the author believes that should be introduced and made a standard method is the "Assessment for Learning (AfL)" methods which were formally recognised and promoted as best practice (Boyle & Charles, 2010). AfL is defined as "the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there" (Assessment Reform Group 2002). Although challenges for implementation remain (Cizek 2000), the model of AfL has now been widely adopted with demonstrable effectiveness, across educational disciplines and sectors (James & Pedder 2006). Yet in the field of Physical Education resistant attitudes remain that suggest potential benefits are not being acknowledged. A proper method of assessment is vital to validate Physical Education as a subject. A review of the current and future direction of Australian sport The Crawford Report, notes that in the public school setting at least the status of physical education and school sport has been diminished (Crawford, 2009). This is backed up by taking a look at the new Junior certificate syllabus where PE is not specifically stated but rather physical activity. That is why the benefits and value of PE needs to be given greater attention in terms of assessment. Classroom assessment and high stakes national testing present challenges for PE and these challenges need to be addressed in order to justify its future in the contemporary Irish school curriculum.

The use of technology is the way forward in the opinion of this author. A transformative power exists in technology. Other sectors, such as medicine, manufacturing, finance and retail have been changed fundamentally by the effective and innovative use of technology.  These sectors now operate in ways that are unrecognisable to those of a century, or even a decade ago. Education is now slowly following suit with recent technology developments such as classroom assessment tools to observe in real time what children can and can't understand, and lesson videos which offer pupils access to quality teaching beyond the classroom eg Khan Academy, teacher tube. Evidence suggests that learners across the age range and especially older learners regularly use digital technologies in the home for a range of purposes (Davis and Good 2009). In a study by Ito et al. (2008) digital media is enabling learning environments to be assessed anywhere at any time, and young people are learning in peer driven groups. Therefore this would allow teachers to be able to perform two of the most important items which we have discussed.

However, the integration of technology into the school curriculum is a complex and challenging process (Cooper, 1998) that requires taking into account numerous factors such as teachers' computer skills as well as their confidence and attitudes toward technology, the use of technology in the teaching and learning process, the technology infrastructure in the school, and the school environment (Papanastasiou and Angeli 2008). A comprehensive curricular integration of theory and practice of digital media in physical education into PE teacher education and further education may be necessary to ensure long-term quality assurance and education in this didactic area (Mitchell and McKethan 2003). The author however suggests that Physical Education should also have a platform in technology through the use of such services and that provision should be made to create an online curriculum for students that fall in line with the aims, objectives and syllabus of Physical Education in Ireland. Teachers may then add whatever they wish to fall in line with their particular needs or capabilities.

Overall the author believes that PE is currently at a crossroads where it can both grasp the opportunity and strive to move forward or go backwards and regress. By looking at the current provision of physical education we have identified the opportunities available to implement positive change. Forms of assessment, learning outcomes, innovative use of technology and the use of resources are all items which should be assessed and examined in a creative and fearless manner in order for PE to be validated as a vital subject.