Doctor of Philosophy
School of Health and Society
Daley, Sandra Catherine, The position of Physical Education within the primary school curriculum: perceptions, attitudes and realities, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong, 2016. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4966
The aim of this research was to determine the value that primary school teachers, parents and children place on Physical Education; and teachers’ and parents’ perception of the role of Physical Education in a child’s overall physical and mental development. Conducted at two primary schools in the Australian Capital Territory Australia, this research collected data from teachers and parents using focus groups and questionnaires, to gain a greater understanding of how Physical Education is being taught; barriers to teaching this area of the curriculum; parent’s knowledge and expectations of their school’s Physical Education program; and parent’s knowledge of the contribution this area of the curriculum makes to their child’s physical, social and cognitive development. To explore children’s perception of Physical Education, children from kindergarten, Year 4 and Year 6 were invited to draw a picture and write about their experience; Year 6 children also completed the Children and Youth Physical Self Perception Profile to investigate whether this age group believe they have the attributes and competencies to be an active participant.
Results from this research indicate there is some consensus that the Physical Education curriculum is valued by parents, teachers and children. However, there is a disconnect between what parents expect to be delivered, teachers’ intentions of delivery and what children would like to experience within Physical Education classes. Teachers identified barriers to teaching a comprehensive Physical Education program which included a congested curriculum, lack of resources, adequate space, a lack of confidence and conflicting school priorities. Parents perceived Physical Education as an essential subject but many had little understanding of how it contributes to their child’s overall development milestones, how it was delivered or an understanding of the grading criteria for this subject. Many children indicated they were looking for more fun and challenging activities in Physical Education classes which would enable them to engage at all skill and fitness levels. Year 6 children who had completed the Children and Youth Physical Self Perception Profile generally had a positive perception of themselves within the physical domain.
The relevance of Physical Education as a core curriculum area is clearly supported by the findings of this research. However, the traditional barriers to teaching Physical Education still need to be addressed so that teachers feel supported by their school and gain the level of confidence required to teach this complex area. Parents need to have a better understanding of the Physical Education curriculum and the range of skills and knowledge that children should develop to assist them in maintaining their physical health into adulthood. Together teachers and parents need to ensure that Physical Education remains an education priority area by adhering to the government mandated time for Physical Education and that it continues to be a fun and engaging learning experience that encourages children to be lifelong participants. This research has considered the perspective of parents, teachers and children of Physical Education at two schools at one point of time and as such provides insight into the current position of Physical Education within the core curriculum of primary school education in that context.