I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Robert Pangrazi at the Wyoming State AAHPERD Convention. Dr. Pangrazi is what I would consider an expert in the field of physical education. He has published over 50 textbooks and over 100 research articles on the subject, and now conducts training workshops for physical education teachers nationally (WAHPERD, 2009). Being involved in physical education for many years, he posed an interesting question to the teachers attending his lecture: what is your goal as a physical education teacher?
Of course, the first thought to come to mind may be to improve fitness levels among students. After all, obesity rates among children has reached epidemic proportions with one in five Kindergarteners entering school already overweight or obese (Ratey, 2009). Yet, Dr. Pangrazi sited multiple research studies showing no increase in fitness levels among students attending physical education classes. Teachers, he explained, simply do not see the students often enough to make a big difference in this area (Pangrazi, 2009).
Another purpose for physical educators could be to increase skill level, especially sports skills. For many years, physical education was equated with learning sports. While he did not discount benefits of learning sports, and the skills in playing a game, Dr. Pangrazi cautioned not to focus exclusively on sports for physical education. He sited research that showed those who play sports well typically have a genetic disposition towards athleticism. Teachers do not make skilled sportsmen and women out of every student simply by teaching the sport to them. Some kids just simply will not play as well as others, or enjoy it. Plus, rarely do students participate in sports as adults, and those that do were probably skilled players in school. This leaves a large percentage of people not participating in any activity because they have not learned to enjoy it, and they believe they are not good at any activity anyway. Unfortunately, it is these people who are at the highest risk for health complications from obesity and non-activity. (Pangrazi, 2009).
Therefore, if physical educators can not increase fitness levels in their classes or create skilled athletes, what is their role? I pose this question because, as busy as we are turning in assignments and signing up for classes next quarter, few of us probably have taken time to think what role our teaching will play in the big picture; and until we do, those who make decisions about the importance of physical education in schools will not take our job seriously (Pangrazi, 2009).
For his answer to this, Dr. Pangrazi explained that physical education should really be about physical activity and health, as he explained, “physical education is the only part of the school curriculum focusing on physical activity and health. They need us” (Pangrazi, 2009). It is up to the physical educator to teach students skills that they can carry with them their whole lives. In his curriculum he focuses on accountability in the areas of increasing physical activity, healthy eating habits, sun safety, and developing healthy attitudes towards physical activity. He also focuses on instructional areas of physical fitness (i.e. wearing pedometers), skills development, and character development (i.e. sportsmanship). (Pangrazi, 2009).
What is your goal as a physical educator? Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Pangrazi?
Pangrazi, R.P. (2009) Active and healthy schools: a future for the profession. Presented at
WAHPERD 2009 Conference, Riverton, Wyoming.
Ratey, J. (2009). The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Presented at
WAHPERD 2009 Convention, Riverton, Wyoming.
WAHPERD (2009). Program of events [Program Guide]. Riverton, WY: Author.
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