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Project focuses on making physical education enjoyable for all students

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education states that physical education is an integral part of the total educational experience children receive throughout grade school. While physical education classes serve a vital purpose in the daily lives of students, teachers are presented with challenges in creating a harmonious, safe and enjoyable learning environment for each of them.  

College of Education faculty members Vanessa Hinton, Alice Buchanan and Margaret Flores have joined together to create the Positive Behavior Support in Physical Education (PBS-PE) project. The project focuses on various strategies physical education teachers can implement to improve instruction and include students with disabilities or those who from populations considered “at-risk.”  

“The more strategies teachers have to teach appropriate behavior, the better off it’s going to be for everybody,” said Hinton, a visiting professor in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling. “We are planning to build a repertoire of strategies that teachers have in ways of problem solving.”  

Students with disabilities or diverse needs receive individualized attention in the classroom, but in the gym, it is often a different story.  

“One reason physical education is not implementing these things as well is because they work with so many students at once,” said Buchanan, an associate professor of physical education in the Department of Kinesiology. “It’s hard to individualize.”  

The group looks at Positive Behavior Supports based on a three-tiered system. The first tier, according to Flores, is based on strategies used for everyone. Students in the second tier require a little more attention, and the final tier requires individualized needs.  

“Some of this involves how we teach teachers to change general ways of doing things that help support each tier of children in the class,” said Flores, an associate professor of special education. “We do it by groups to avoid the complications of individualizing something to every single child in a 30-student classroom.”   

Rather than putting a student in time out or sending them to the principal’s office, faculty members urge teachers to spend time meeting the needs of a student population that is becoming increasingly diverse. One of the ultimate goals for the project is to increase student participation rates.  

“We want the students to be integrated as much as we possibly can,” Hinton said.  

By combining specialized instruction knowledge and good physical education practices, the group has come up with ideas for integration they plan to present at their first workshop. The workshop will be held in April at the Alabama State Association for Physical Education Recreation and Dance Spring Conference in Orange Beach, Ala.  

“We’re individualizing things to students,” Buchanan said. “If you know what their issue is, you can try and address it ahead of time so that when it comes up, there is a plan.”  

The group also focuses on how to properly set up a safe and orderly learning environment so that teachers can effectively keep children on task and monitor student behavior.  

“Physical education is a little different because there is more movement,” Hinton said. “They’re expected to tag each other so there are times when you may need a lesson on what it means to tag and how not to tag.”  

An interactive website will offer a community learning database where physical education teachers that implement various strategies can communicate and share their ideas and experiences.  

“It’s a way to problem solve. It allows for follow up and support so that if you do implement a strategy and it fails, you can find out how to fix it,” Flores said.  

Although the PBS-PE project is in its early stages, Hinton, Flores and Buchanan have high hopes for positive end results in classrooms where PBS-PE strategies are implemented.  

“Learning is learning, so sometimes there may be strategies you can use from teachers teaching reading or math and they may apply to teachers teaching physical education,” Hinton said.

Last Updated: Mar 19, 2013

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